Neal Lovlace, et al. v. Timothy Kevin Copley, et al.

Date / Time: 
February 7, 2013 - 9:00am

Lower court summary:

This is a modification of child visitation case, involving grandparent visitation. The Appellant grandparents appeal the trial court’s order, denying their request for more visitation with the minor child, as well as the failure of the trial court to find the Appellee Mother guilty of all alleged incidents of civil contempt. In the posture of Appellees, the mother and her husband (the child’s adoptive father) argue that the Appellants are not entitled to any visitation. We conclude that in modification of grandparent visitation cases, if the parent is the movant, his or her burden is to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that there has been a material change in circumstance affecting the child’s best interest. However, where the movant is the non-parent, we hold that the grandparent visitation statute provides that the burden is on the non-parent to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that there has been a material change in circumstance that would present a substantial risk of harm to the child if modification is denied. Because the trial court incorrectly applied the best interest standard, we vacate its order modifying the visitation arrangement. We also conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding the mother in civil contempt on five counts; however, we conclude that the award of attorney’s fees for that contempt is not clear as to what portion, if any, of those fees was expended for prosecution of the contempts, and what portion, if any, was expended in pursuit of the Appellees’ attempt to modify the visitation order. Therefore, we also vacate the award of attorney’s fees and remand for an award of those fees associated only with the prosecution of the contempts. Vacated in part, affirmed in part, and remanded.

Supreme Court
Middle Section