Allison Campbell n/k/a Allison Lanthier and Kyle Lanthier, Appellants-Respondents,
Tara Eary, Appellee-Petitioner.
from the St. Joseph Circuit Court The Honorable John E.
Broden, Judge, Trial Court Cause No. 71C01-1112-MI-225
Attorney for Appellants George T. Catanzarite Stipp Law, LLC
South Bend, Indiana
Attorney for Appellee Mark F. James Anderson, Agostino &
Keller, P.C. South Bend, Indiana
of the Case
The issue in this appeal is whether a grandparent visitation
order over two children born out of wedlock survives after
the children have been legitimized by the marriage of the
children's biological parents. We hold that it does not.
Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's judgment and
remand with instructions.
and Procedural History
Allison Lanthier ("Mother") gave birth to R.L. in
June of 2008 and to L.L. in September of 2010. Kyle Lanthier
("Father") is the biological father of both
children, but Mother and Father were not married at the time
of either child's birth. Father did not file a paternity
affidavit, but Father's name appears on each child's
In December of 2011, Tara Eary, Mother's mother
("Grandmother"), petitioned the trial court for an
order of grandparent visitation over the children pursuant to
Indiana's Grandparent Visitation Act, Indiana Code
Sections 31-17-5-0.2 to -10 (2019) ("the Act"). In
particular, she requested visitation under Indiana Code
Section 31-17-5-1(a)(3) on the ground that the children were
born out of wedlock. The trial court granted
Grandmother's request and, in its order, established a
visitation schedule ("the visitation order").
In September of 2013, Mother and Father married. Thereafter,
Father moved to intervene in Grandmother's visitation
action, which the trial court granted, and Mother and Father
jointly moved to "dismiss" the visitation order on
the ground that their marriage had legitimized the children
and that, as a matter of law, the visitation order did not
survive the marriage. Appellants' App. Vol. 2 at 14-15.
The trial court disagreed and denied Mother and Father's
joint motion to dismiss. The court then certified its order
for interlocutory appeal, which we accepted.
Mother and Father (hereinafter, "the Parents")
appeal the trial court's denial of their joint motion to
dismiss. They assert that the Act does not provide for the
survival of the visitation order after the Parents have
legitimized the children by their marriage. The Parents'
argument on appeal turns entirely on statutory construction,
which we undertake de novo. E.g., State
v. Reinhart, 112 N.E.3d 705, 710 (Ind. 2018).
"Historically, grandparents had no special common-law
right to have visitation with a grandchild." K.J.R.
v. M.A.B. (In re Visitation of M.L.B.), 983 N.E.2d 583,
585 (Ind. 2013). However, "by enacting the Grandparent
Visitation Act, our General Assembly has recognized that a
child's best interest is often served by developing and
maintaining contact with his or her grandparents."
McCune v. Frey, 783 N.E.2d 742, 755 (Ind.Ct.App.
2003) (quotation marks omitted). The Act thus seeks "to
balance two competing interests: the rights of parents to
raise their children as they see fit and the rights of
grandparents to participate in the lives of their
The Act is in derogation of the common law and is "the
exclusive basis for a grandparent to seek visitation."
In re Visitation of M.L.B., 983 N.E.2d at 585. As
such, it "must be strictly construed." J.C. v.
J.B. (In re Guardianship of A.J.A.), 991 N.E.2d 110, 113
(Ind. 2017) (discussing B.M. v. J.J.P. (In re Visitation
of C.R.P.), 909 N.E.2d 1026, 1028 (Ind.Ct.App. 2009),
trans. denied) (quotation marks omitted). The Act
"contemplates only occasional, temporary visitation that
does not substantially infringe on a parent's fundamental
right to control the upbringing, ...