The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday, April 22, 2014, that grandparents who filed late motions challenging a stepfather’s adoption of a minor child, are not entitled to relief because the grandparents did not have legal custody of the child and therefore notice of the proceedings was not required.
Indiana Code § 31-19-9-1 outlines the consents required for an adoption of a child under the age of eighteen (18) years of age. The question in this case was in regards to Indiana Code § 31-19-9-1(a)(3) and whether “lawful custody” is the equivalent to the phrase “legal custody” or if the Grandparents as de facto custodians of the child fell under the protection of the statute. The Court, in its decision, stated that common law exhibits a disfavoring of the right of any party other than a child’s parents to object to an adoption, and found that “lawful custody” is equivalent to “legal custody,” that is, court-ordered custody.
As instances of grandparents caring for grandchildren become more and more the norm, it is important for grandparents to understand that they have limited rights which they can protect by hiring an attorney. However, it is important to note that there is a presumption that parents should have custody of their children and courts are hesitant to grant third-party custody or guardianship of children.
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