Friday, March 5, 2010

Grandparent's Visitation - Latest Case from The Court of Appeals

Paternal grandmother files for grandparent visitation after her son kills child's mother. Father voluntarily terminates his parental rights. What happens to grandmother's visitation?

In VISITATION OF CRP v. JJP, the Indiana Court of Appeals decided that grandmother lacked any standing for grandparent visitation. No standing means no case.

Here is the Court of Appeals' reasoning:

Grandparents must have standing as prescribed under the GVA in order to seek visitation rights. Maser, 809 N.E.2d at 432 (citations omitted). The primary purpose of standing is to ensure that the party before the court has a substantive right to enforce the claim being made. In re J.D.G., 756 N.E.2d 509, 511 (Ind. Ct. App. 2001). If the grandparent lacks standing, then the petition must be dismissed as a matter of law. Id.

The GVA was enacted in derogation of the common law and must be strictly construed. In re Visitation of J.P.H., 709 N.E.2d 44, 46 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999). In construing a statute, statutes in pari materia should also be considered together to effectuate legislative intent. Horn v. Hendrickson, 824 N.E.2d 690, 698 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005); In re Visitation of J.P.H., 709 N.E.2d at 46.


As noted by the trial court, when read together, the statutes provide that a parent of the child's parent may seek visitation rights if the child's parent is deceased. The "child's parent" referred to in code section 31-17-5-1 is the same person as the "child's parent" referred to in code section 31-9-2-77. Therefore, the GVA confers standing only upon grandparents who are the parents of the deceased parent of the child. Here, Grandmother is not the parent of the child's deceased parent, and she does not have standing under the statute to seek visitation. The trial court did not err when it dismissed Grandmother's petition.

Another reminder that for Grandparent Visitation, there must be a strict compliance with the statute. The courts will not provide any leeway.

The Indiana Lawyer
noted this case under the headline COA: Only deceased s parent can have visitation.

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