Grandparents are taking a more active role in their grandchildren’s lives as family dynamics become more unique. Indiana has recognized the importance a grandparent can play in a child’s life, and has given protection to that relationship by providing an independent cause of action for grandparent visitation. Indiana allows for grandparents to receive visitation with their grandchildren in limited instances. Grandparents can petition a Court for visitation if: 1) the child’s parent is deceased; 2) the marriage of the child’s parents has been dissolved in Indiana; or 3) the child was born out of wedlock, and for paternal grandparents, the child’s father has established paternity of the child.
There are four factors that must be addressed in a grandparent visitation case. (1) the presumption that a fit parent acts in the child’s best interests; (2) the weight that must be given to the parent’s decision to restrict or deny visitation; (3) whether the grandparent has established that visitation is in the child’s best interests; and (4) whether the parent has denied or merely limited visitation with the grandparent. A fit parent who has disallowed grandparent visitation is presumed to be acting in the child’s best interest. The Court can, however, find that the parent is not acting in the child’s best interest or that the parent’s denial of visitation is selfish, and award grandparent visitation over the parent’s objection. Courts have further found that a complete denial of grandparent visitation strengthens the need for judicial intervention, as the very existence of a relationship with the grandparent is at stake in such an instance. Courts find less of a need to intervene when visitation is limited but not completely stopped.
The Court may expressly consider whether a grandparent has had or has attempted to have meaningful contact with the child. Grandparents will need to be able to show the Court the efforts they have taken to maintain contact with the child.
Once the Court determines grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interest, the amount of visitation is within the Court’s discretion. The Court has made clear that the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines do not apply to grandparent visitation cases. The amount of visitation awarded in a grandparent visitation case will vary on a case-by-case basis. Following an initial determination, the Order may be modified whenever modification would serve the best interests of the child.
If you have questions about your right to see your grandchildren, or how the Grandparent Visitation Act applies to you, contact the attorneys at Slotegraaf Niehoff P.C in Bloomington, Indiana.