Grandparents rights in Indiana often include custody and visitation of the grandchildren. A grandparent may fear that they won’t enjoy a close relationship with their grandchild whenever family discord occurs. In some cases, grandparents may believe that they are in a better position to raise their grandchild than the child’s parents.
In this article, we discuss the various rights grandparents in Indiana have and the process of seeking these rights.
How To Get Grandparents Visitation Rights in Indiana
Indiana law grants grandparents certain legal protections and the ability to seek visitation if certain conditions are met. A grandparent will be granted visitation rights if they show that visitation serves the best interests of a child. It is the fundamental right of parents to take care of their children without government (or any form) interference unless the needs of a child are not being met.
Due to such precedence of parental rights, grandparents have to make a strong case to overcome that.
Grandparents in Indiana may seek their visitation rights when:
- The child’s parent is deceased
- Parents of the child have divorced or had their marriage annulled
- The child was born out of wedlock
– Establishing Paternity
One exception to this rule is that paternal grandparents cannot seek visitation if the child’s paternity has not been established. To get a grandparent visitation order from the court, grandparents have to file a petition highlighting that grandparent/grandchild relationship and the reasons for seeking the court order.
The court then holds a hearing on the petition, where the grandparent explains their involvement in the life of their grandchild. During the hearing, a grandparent also has to explain why the family has prevented them from having time together with their grandchild.
In addition to the child’s best interests, the court will also want to establish the extent to which the grandparent has or attempted to have meaningful contact with their grandchild.
How To Establish Grandparents Rights
– Getting Child Custody
Whenever you file for grandparent custody rights in Indiana, a judge will typically consider the following factors before making a decision:
- Whether the child’s parent is unfit to have custody
- Whether the child’s parent agrees to a custody change
- If the child was abandoned or neglected by their parent
- If the child has suffered any abuse from the parent
When these factors are established and the grandparent is considered to have overcome a parent’s presumption of the child’s custody, the court will analyze the child’s best interests. The judge will consider factors such as the child’s age, the child’s physical and emotional needs, the child’s wishes, the child’s relationship with their parents and grandparents, and any other factor deemed relevant by the court.
Like with visitation, the law provides that the custody rights of a fit and proper parent will always precede those of a grandparent. Such preference extends even when the grandparent is in a better position to provide for the child’s financial needs or has a very close attachment to the child.
– Visitation Rights
While each state has its own rules regarding grandparent visitation rights, each state’s law has to adhere to the policy spelled out in the Troxel v. Granville case by the U.S. Supreme Court. Under this case law, a judge must consider the parent’s wishes regarding grandparent visitation. However, the best interests of a child come first in any visitation decision.
Simply put, visiting rights for grandparents are to be ordered only when it serves the child’s best interests. Even if the grandparent’s visits are appropriate, a judge will ensure that the visitation time doesn’t affect the parent-child relationship.
Grandparents are special individuals in the lives of most children. In modern societies, work responsibilities and other circumstances often come in the way of parenting. This has seen grandparents play an active role in taking care and rearing their grandchildren. As a result of this dynamic, many grandparents have established a closer, special bond with their grandchildren.
Sometimes, grandparents may feel that they are denied their right to spend time with their grandchildren. Luckily, the law provides grandparent visitation rights in Indiana, which can be pursued in some circumstances. However, parents are at will to cut off the visitation time without repercussions.
As such, grandparents should understand their legal rights and limitations.
– Adoption Rights
In some cases, grandparents may seek visitation rights when the child is adopted, either by a stepparent or biological relative. While this is a fact-specific question, a visitation order will continue in full force if it had already been granted to a grandparent. This can be reassuring for a grandparent whose child has died, and the other parent remarries.
Even if they don’t have a visitation order, such grandparents can start to explore their options if they suspect that the adoption of their grandchild by a stepparent or biological relative is likely. However, the visitation must still be in the best interests of the child. If a grandparent did not have a visitation order, they have to seek court-ordered visitation prior to the adoption.
Grandparents who fail to seek visitation rights before the adoption of their grandchild can be shut out of their life. While there is legal recourse for grandparents who want to spend more time with the grandchild, timing is crucial, as is understanding rights and obligations.
To enjoy the benefits of grandparents custody rights Indiana law provides, a grandparent has to prove that it’s in the best interests of the child for them to have custody. They would also need to show that granting them custody would be of significant and substantial benefit to the child.
– Guardianship Rights
Sometimes, grandparents may need more than visitation rights to ensure that their grandchildren receive the best care and may therefore seek guardianship. Unlike adoption, guardianship doesn’t terminate the rights and responsibilities of the birth parents but provides full custody of the child.
Under IC 29-3-8 of the Indiana Code, a guardian is a person appointed to safeguard the interests of a child. Such an individual has the authority and responsibilities of a parent. In Indiana, guardianships can be created for various reasons, including a child’s safety and welfare and the need to have an impartial adult to make crucial financial decisions.
How to Request Grandparent Guardianship Rights in Indiana
A grandparent who finds a need for guardianship may request the right to the same under IC 29-2-5-1(1), but they will be required to show that appointment is in the best interests of the child.
When filing for a guardianship petition, a grandparent may consider the following types:
- Petition for permanent guardianship
- Petition for temporary guardianship
- Temporary guardianship due to emergency
Grandparents who choose either of the first two types have to attend a court hearing before being granted guardianship. A grandparent may be granted temporary guardianship due to an emergency, which happens without a hearing but is reviewed at a later date.
With guardianship, parental rights are not permanently ended. As such, guardianship could be terminated in case of a change in circumstances.
Without a court order granting guardianship, a grandparent has no legal rights to the custody of their grandchild. That means even if they have been providing the best care for the child, the biological parent can take the child out of their care at any time.
Importance of Grandparents in Our Lives
Being a grandparent is viewed by many as having the perks of parenting without most of the work or duties in the way. For some, this may be true, but grandparents usually come second when it comes to some aspects of the child’s life, such as visitation.
In Indiana, more than 60,000 grandparents have custody of their grandchildren. These numbers have been rising due to ongoing parents’ issues such as unemployment, homelessness, drug addiction, and others.
In such cases, custody or adoption of a grandchild by the grandparent is in the child’s best interest. Luckily, Indiana law provides these rights, which may be granted upon application.
Yet, laws regarding visitation and custody of grandchildren can be complex since parental rights have precedence over those of grandparents. While it may seem logical for a grandparent to be allowed to take care of a child if the parent is not able to, it usually isn’t that easy.
Indiana courts have to consider the circumstances under which the grandparents are seeking these rights and whether it is in the best interest of the child to grant them.
You can file for grandparent rights in Indiana if you feel that the child’s parents have interfered with your visitation rights. Under Indiana law, grandparents are also accorded custody and guardianship rights.
Below is a recap of the discussion regarding grandparent rights in Indiana:
- Indiana courts always give parental rights preference over grandparent rights
- Before granting visitation, custody, or guardianship rights to grandparents, the court will first determine whether it is in the child’s best interest
- To be granted these rights, grandparents have to make a strong showing to prove that an award for these rights would significantly and substantially benefit the child
Parental rights are usually given preference in Indiana: however, the death or divorce of the parents could be valid reasons to grant custody rights to grandparents. Grandparents may also seek visitation rights if a child is adopted by a stepparent or a biological relative but fear that they won’t get the best care. Secure your rights if you think you deserve to be part of your grandkids’ lives.
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