Grandparent Visitation Allowed after Child’s Adoption

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that state statute clearly allows grandparent visitation to continue in a case where a child is adopted by another biological grandparent.

The Court’s unanimous decision was issued in Elizabeth and Terry Baker v. Donnie Lee, No. 36A01-0807-CV-340, affirming the ruling from Jackson Circuit Judge William Vance.

There were three children born out of wedlock between 1995 and 2002 whose parents were jailed on numerous times because of substance abuse charges. Donnie Lee is the maternal grandfather and Elizabeth Baker is the paternal grandmother, who, with her husband, received guardianship of the children and allowed Lee to visit on an informal basis.

In 2007, Lee was granted formal visitation by a Scott Circuit Court Judge. Later that year, the Bakers adopted the children in through the Jackson Circuit Court. Lee’s visitation became the contested issue, and Judge Vance determined that Lee’s right to see his grandchildren survived the adoption and couldn’t be defeated by “the legal gymnastics this case exemplifies.”
Subsequently, the Bakers and the children moved to Florida, and a visitation schedule was determined for Lee to have seven weeks of the summer vacation and one week during winter vacation.

The Bakers appealed, arguing that Lee was no longer a grandfather of the children after the adoption and not entitled to visitation. They asserted he had not established visitation rights under the Grandparent Visitation Act, as detailed in Indiana Code ยง 31-17-5-1.

The Court of Appeals did not buy the Bakers’ argument. Instead, the panel noted that the intent of Indiana’s legislature was to provide special protection for existing grandparents by allowing post-adoptive visitation. The Court also found that because Lee is a grandparent of children born out of wedlock, he qualifies as a relative under state statute and entitled to seek a visitation order.

“The legislature did not carve out an exception for an adoptive biological grandparent who is married to a non-relative of the adoptee(s),” Judge Mark Bailey wrote. “It is logical to assume that many, possibly most, adoptive parents have a spouse who is also an adopting parent. In essence, the Legislature did not require that every party to the adoption be related to the adopted child or children.”

The full text of the opinion is available:
Elizabeth_and_Terry_Baker_v._Donnie_Lee-Grandparents_Rights_.pdf