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Painter v. Bannister

Iowa Supreme Court
258 Iowa 1390, 140 N.W.2d 152, cert. denied 385 U.S. 949 (1966)


Harold Painter (plaintiff), a California resident, filed a custody petition in Iowa state court against Dwight and Margaret Bannister (defendants), seeking the return of his seven-year-old son Mark. Several years prior, Mark’s mother and younger sister had died in an automobile accident. In her Last Will and Testament, Mark’s mother left custody of Mark to Painter. Painter had asked the Bannisters, who were Mark’s maternal grandparents, to take care of Mark. Subsequently, Painter remarried and asked the Bannisters to return Mark. The Bannisters refused. At a hearing, the evidence showed that Painter and the Bannisters came from widely different backgrounds. Although Painter led a generally unstable life, moving from one short-term job to another, the Bannisters were grounded and well respected in their community, were college educated, and held prestigious jobs. A psychiatrist testified that the Bannister home provided Mark with a stable and dependable environment and an opportunity for a college education. The psychiatrist stated that Mark’s life in Painter’s home, conversely, would be filled with more freedom but would be unstable and less practical. Dr. Glenn Hawks, a child psychologist, spent considerable time with Mark and the Bannisters and concluded that Mark had acted out, been aggressive, and told tall tales prior to living with his grandparents. Dr. Hawks further stated that, after the two years that Mark had been with the Bannisters, Mark now viewed his grandfather as an authority and father figure and was respectful and well grounded. The trial court discounted Dr. Hawks’s testimony and awarded custody of Mark to Painter based upon the statutory presumption that a parent is best suited to have custody of a child. The trial court stayed transfer of custody pending an appeal by the Bannisters.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Stuart, J.)

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