APPEAL FROM THE MARION SUPERIOR COURT. The Honorable Theodore M. Sosin, Judge. Cause Nos. 49D02-0310-DR-1827 and 32D01-0911-AD-37.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: KENDRA G. GJERDINGEN, Mallor Grodner LLP, Bloomington, Indiana.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: DARRYN L. DUCHON, Indianapolis, Indiana; MONTY K. WOOLSEY, Cross, Pennamped, Woolsey & Glazier, P.C., Carmel, Indiana.
BAKER, Judge. BARNES, J., and CRONE, J., concur.
In this case, the parties are before this Court for the third time concerning essentially the same stepparent adoption proceedings. Appellant-petitioner D.D. (Stepfather) married K.D. (Mother) in 2007 and wanted to adopt her two children from a previous marriage. However, the children's father, appellee-respondent D.P. (Father), resides in Washington D.C., and Mother could not convince him to consent to the adoption. Nevertheless, Stepfather's petition for adoption was granted in 2010 but was vacated for lack of notice to Father.
Another hearing on the adoption petition was scheduled and Stepfather alleged that Father's consent was unnecessary because he had failed to significantly communicate with the children for a period of at least one year when able to do so. The trial court found that Stepfather had not met his burden, but a panel of this Court remanded after clarifying the correct burden of proof. After reviewing the evidence again and applying the correct burden of proof, the trial court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law in its order denying Stepfather's petition to adopt the children. Perhaps the trial court's most compelling finding was that Mother had thwarted Father's attempts at communicating with the children.
Stepfather now appeals, arguing that the trial court's finding that Mother thwarted Father's attempts at communication are clearly erroneous, insofar as Father never tried to directly communicate with the children. Concluding that the trial court did not err by denying Stepfather's petition to adopt the children, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
In 2004, Mother and Father had their marriage dissolved by the Marion Superior Court, and Mother was awarded sole legal and physical custody of their two children, JJP and JP, who were twenty-three months and four months old at the time. Father was awarded parenting time with no overnight visits and was ordered to pay $502 per week in child support, which he has consistently paid except for a short period when he was seeking employment.
Father saw JJP and JP a few times during the pendency of the dissolution proceedings. In 2004, after the dissolution was granted, Father moved to Washington, D.C. for work and currently resides in Arlington, Virginia. Father's last visitation with the children was in 2004 before the trial court enforced parenting time in 2010.
In 2007, Mother married Stepfather, and they currently reside with the children in Hendricks County. Father is also remarried and has three older children from a previous marriage.
Following the dissolution and Father's relocation, he made numerous efforts to establish parenting time in a manner that would be the least disruptive to the children. More particularly, Father repeatedly emailed and telephoned Mother, attempting to establish a parenting time schedule that would be agreeable to both of them. Father ...