In re: the Grandparent Visitation of B.A.A. (June 28, 2021) (Grandparent Visitation Case)
HELD: Trial court’s grandparent visitation order was remanded to develop specific findings as required by the Indiana Supreme Court’s 2009 In re: K.I. case.
FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Paternal Grandparents sought a visitation order with Grandchild after the death of their son, Grandchild’s father. Following a hearing, the trial court issued a grandparent visitation order allowing Paternal Grandparents to have Grandchild: (1) one day per week in their home while Mother was at work; and (2) a Saturday overnight in their home every third weekend. Mother appealed.
The Court of Appeals noted the important constitutional considerations of a grandparent visitation order per Troxeland related caselaw. Under Indiana’s cases of McCune, M.L.B. and K.I., a trial court sitting in a grandparent visitation case is required to address these four factors:
A presumption that a fit parent’s decision about grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interests, thus placing the burden of proof on the petitioning grandparents;
The “special weight” that must therefore be given to a fit parent’s decision regarding nonparental visitation, thus establishing a heightened standard of proof by which a grandparent must rebut the presumption;
“Some weight” given to whether a parent has agreed to some visitation or denied it entirely, since a complete denial of visitation threatens the very existed of the relationship between the grandparent and grandchild); and
Whether the petitioning grandparent has established that visitation is in the child’s best interests.
“Because the trial court in this case has failed to issue the required specific findings, we remand this case to the trial court for the entry of new findings and conclusions revealing its consideration of all four relevant factors . . . .”
The case was remanded with instructions.
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ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN