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Jocham v. Sutliff

Court of Appeals of Indiana

February 6, 2015

Kirk R. Jocham, Appellant-Respondent,
v.
Melba Sutliff, Appellee-Intervenor

Page 83

Appeal from the Hamilton Superior Court. Cause No. 29D03-0803-DR-359. The Honorable William J. Hughes, Judge.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: Robert E. Shive, Hollingsworth & Zivitz, P.C., Carmel, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: Jonathan R. Deenik, Cross Pennamped Woolsey & Glazier, Carmel, Indiana.

Robb, Judge. Bailey, J., and Brown, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 84

Robb, Judge.

Case Summary and Issue

[¶ 1] Kirk Jocham (" Jocham" ) appeals the trial court's order granting grandparent visitation to Melba Sutliff (" Sutliff" ). Jocham raises several issues for our review, of which we find the following dispositive: whether Sutliff had standing to petition for grandparent visitation. Concluding that Sutliff was not a " grandparent" entitled to seek visitation rights at the time she filed her petition, we reverse.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶ 2] Sutliff is Stephenie Jocham's (" Stephenie" ) mother. Jocham and Stephenie were married and had one child together, K.J., born in 2004. Jocham and Stephenie divorced in Hamilton County in 2008. Jocham married Emily Jocham (" Emily" ) on March 12, 2011. On June 2, 2011, Stephenie passed away. On September 20, 2012, pursuant to a decree entered by the Hancock Superior Court, Emily adopted K.J. and a new birth certificate was issued showing K.J. as the child of " Kirk Robert and Emily Rebecca Jocham." Exhibit B.

[¶ 3] On July 16, 2013, Sutliff filed a Petition to Intervene in the Hamilton County dissolution case for the purposes of filing a Petition for Grandparent Visitation. Over Jocham's objection, the Petition to Intervene was granted and the Petition for Grandparent Visitation was scheduled for hearing. The trial court took the matter under advisement following the hearing and allowed the parties to file written summaries of their arguments. The trial court thereafter issued an order denying the Petition for Grandparent Visitation, finding in pertinent part as follows:

7. I.C. 31-17-5 et seq controls the issues of visitation sought by a grandparent. I.C. 31-17-5-1 provides, in relevant part: (a) A child's grandparent may seek visitation rights if: (1) the child's parent is deceased; (2) the marriage of the child's parents has been dissolved in Indiana. . . I.C. 31-17-5-9 provides, in relevant part: Visitation rights provided for in section 1 or 10 . . . of this chapter survive the adoption of the child by any of the following: (1) a stepparent.
8. The visitation rights of a grandparent provided for in these sections are those acquired by a grandparent by court order prior to the adoption of a child by a stepparent. An adoption by a stepparent extinguishes any right of a grandparent (parent of a deceased biological parent) to ...

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