from the Hamilton Superior Court The Honorable Steven R.
Nation, Judge The Honorable William P. Greenaway, Magistrate
Trial Court Cause No. 29D01-1608-AD-997
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Karen Celestino-Horseman Indianapolis,
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE Alan D. Wilson Kokomo, Indiana
S.L. ("Father") appeals the granting of the
adoption petition filed by K.G. ("Stepfather") for
Father's biological child, E.M.L. ("Child"). We
Father essentially raises two issues. We need only address
the dispositive issue of whether the trial court properly
concluded that Father's consent to Child's adoption
by Stepfather was unnecessary.
Child was born in 2009 to T.G. ("Mother"). Father,
Mother, and Child lived together for about a year before
Mother and Child moved out. Father established paternity in
December 2011 and was ordered to pay child support. Mother
and Father were granted joint physical and legal custody of
Child. From the time of Child's birth, he spent
approximately every other weekend with his paternal
grandparents in Brown County. Father often visited with Child
when he was at the grandparents' house. Mother and
Stepfather married in 2012.
Between December 2011 and December 2012, Father paid about
$620 of the $3, 380 he would have owed in child support.
There is scant evidence in the record as to Father's
employment situation during that time frame; evidently,
Father was employed as a machinist when his child support
obligation was calculated but lost that job sometime
thereafter, according to Mother.
In March 2012, Father was arrested for dealing in
methamphetamine. On July 1, 2013, Mother filed a motion to
modify custody. On October 9, 2013, the trial court granted
Mother sole legal and primary physical custody of Child. This
order contained no requirement that Child's visitation
with Father be supervised or otherwise placed any limitations
on his visitation or contact with Child.
Father was convicted of dealing in methamphetamine in March
2013 and was incarcerated through July 2014. Father sought
and was granted a complete abatement of his child support
obligation to $0 while he was incarcerated.Father frequently
telephoned and spoke with Child when Child was visiting
After being released from incarceration, Father resumed
frequent visitation with Child through Child's weekend
visits with Father's parents. However, on June 9, 2015,
Father filed a pro se "request" regarding parenting
time and custody, alleging that Mother improperly refused to
allow Child to continue visiting Father in Father's own
home and refused to allow Father any unsupervised visitation
with Child. App. Vol. II p. 113. A hearing on the matter
originally was scheduled for August 6, 2015, but was
continued to November, and then December, and finally to
February 10, 2016.
Before a hearing was held, Father was arrested in November
2015 on a domestic battery charge for slapping a girlfriend
in front of two children. He remained in jail until he pled
guilty in February 2016, at which time he was released on
probation. He moved in with his parents thereafter.
Meanwhile, Father's June 2015 petition regarding
parenting time was dismissed after he failed to appear at the
February 2016 hearing on the matter, apparently held while he
was still incarcerated. However, the trial court ordered an
abatement of Father's support obligation while he was
Mother and paternal grandmother ("Grandmother")
frequently communicated by text message regarding Child and
Father, Child's visitation with paternal grandparents,
and Child's sports activities in Noblesville that Mother
invited paternal grandparents but not Father to
attend. After Mother learned of Father's
domestic violence arrest in November 2015, she texted
Grandmother, "I don't trust [Father's] judgement
[sic] with his girlfriends that he affiliates himself with,
which is why I never thought it was a good idea for [Child]
to be around [Father] and his girlfriend." Ex. 8, p.
On November 27, 2015, Mother texted Grandmother,
I wanted to let you know that [Child] knows that [Father] is
in jail. Unfortunately with what I've learned about
[Father's] behavior in the last year, that until [Father]
and I talk to each other and get things resolved in court,
that it's in [Child's] best interest for [Father] to
not talk with [Child] over the phone. I know this is tough
for you, but I'm trusting you to be sure that there's
no communication going on between [Child] and [Father].
Id. at 44. Grandmother responded to this text,
I will respect your wishes, but I don't know what you
mean about his behavior in the last year? The issues he had
was between him and that girl. Nothing to do with [Child] at
all. He has not been on any drugs and was doing good, until
the incidents with her. I think it would hurt [Child] more by
not being able to talk to his Dad. . . . Please answer the
phone when [Father] tries to call you . . . .
On November 29, 2015, Grandmother texted Mother,
I told [Child] last night when [Father] called, that he
couldn't talk to him, he buried his head in the couch
with tears and asked why? I broke down and let him talk to
him for a minute. I know I told you I wouldn't but he
broke my heart when I seen him. I am sorry. I told [Child]
when he asked why, he ...