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In re Grandparent Visitation of G.S.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

January 17, 2017

In Re: the Grandparent Visitation of G.S., J.S., Appellant-Respondent,
v.
M.S., Appellee-Petitioner

         Appeal from the Hancock Circuit Court The Honorable R. Scott Sirk, Commissioner The Honorable Richard D. Culver, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 30C01-1202-DR-246

          Attorney for Appellant R. Lee Money

          Attorney for Appellee Larry F. Whitham Whitham, Hebenstreit & Zubek, LLP

          Baker, Judge.

         [¶1] J.S. (Mother) appeals the portion of the trial court's order mandating that G.S. (Child) be permitted to have contact with other paternal relatives when participating in grandparent visitation with M.S. (Grandmother). Mother argues that there is no statutory authority for a trial court to order a child to have visitation with anyone other than a grandparent in the face of a parent's objections. We agree, and reverse in part.

         Facts

         [¶2] M.S. (Father) and Mother were married on October 19, 2002. Child, the only child born of the marriage, was born in November 2003. Throughout her life, Child had a close and loving relationship with Grandmother, her paternal aunt, M.L. (Aunt), and other paternal relatives. The parents divorced in March 2014. On May 2, 2015, Father committed suicide.

         [¶3] Following Father's death, Mother began to curtail the time that Child spent with her paternal relatives. Mother and Aunt have a particularly acrimonious relationship, and Mother did not wish for Child to spend time with Aunt any longer. Aunt and Grandmother live together, making visitation between Child and Grandmother increasingly complicated. For example, Mother required that visits occurred outside of Grandmother's home, which was difficult for Grandmother, who is elderly and has medical concerns. On June 5, 2015, Grandmother filed a petition for grandparent visitation.

         [¶4] In September 2015, Child and Mother moved to Tennessee because Mother received a job promotion necessitating the move. Following the move, Child's contact with Grandmother and other paternal relatives decreased significantly.

         [¶5] The evidentiary hearing on Grandmother's petition took place on June 1 and June 29, 2016. On August 1, 2016, the trial court issued an order granting the petition. The trial court ordered that one visit per month, for at least six hours at a time, is to occur between Grandmother and Child, and that Grandmother is entitled to overnights during the summer months. In pertinent part, the trial court also ordered as follows:

[A]ll visitation between Grandmother and Granddaughter may occur at Grandmother's Residence or at such other location as Grandmother may select . . . .
. . . [A]ll residents of Grandmother's house need not leave Grandmother's Residence during visits between Grandmother and Granddaughter, nor shall they be required to do so. Furthermore, other members of Father's extended family may be present in Grandmother's Residence or at such other locations where Grandmother may choose to exercise visitation. This shall mean that Granddaughter is entitled to be present and to participate in paternal family reunions and other paternal family functions, to the extent those are scheduled during Granddaughter's periods of visitation with Grandmother.
. . . Grandmother shall be entitled . . . [to] weekly telephone conversations with Granddaughter. . . . During those conversations, it shall be permissible for Grandmother to be joined in the conversation by other members of the extended paternal family. Mother shall not restrict Granddaughter from speaking openly and freely during periods of visitation or telephone contact, nor shall Mother . . . restrict Granddaughter's activities in reaction to Granddaughter's maintenance of a loving relationship with Father's family members.

Appealed Order p. 11-12. Mother now appeals only the portions of the order mandating that Child be permitted to visit and have contact with her paternal ...


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