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What are grandparents' rights in Indiana?

One family law issue in Indiana is the right of grandparents to visit or have custody of their grandchildren. Grandparents' rights in Indiana, like many other states, are limited. Grandparents may ask for visitation with their grandchildren when one parent is dead, the parent's are divorced or the child was born to unmarried parents.

When the child was born out of wedlock, paternity must be proven before paternal grandparents can seek visitation from the court. Indiana prohibits grandparents from seeking visitation with children living with intact families. Adoption ends grandparents' legal rights unless the adoption was by a stepparent or biological relative.

Indiana courts have awarded visitation when it was not offered. However, judges are reluctant to rule on the amount and quality of visitation that a parent must offer. When grandparents have contact with their grandchildren, despite its length and frequency, courts are hesitant to address visitation.

Courts do not treat parents and grandparents equally. Despite their contact with their grandchildren, courts do not grant visitation to grandparents in accordance with the state's parenting time guidelines. Grandparents will not be granted visitation rights if their child has had their parental rights terminated. This usually occurs during adoption but can also occur when the child is placed in the child welfare system.

Indiana law does not grant the right to seek visitation to great-grandparents and step-grandparents. One court denied rights to great-grandparents even though they cared for the children.

Like all other states, grandparents in Indiana must demonstrate that visitation is in the child's best interest. They must also show that they have maintained meaningful contact with the grandchildren or that they tried to have this contact. The judge may have an on-the-record interview with the grandchildren in chambers to determine whether there has been meaningful contact.

An attorney can help grandparents and parents pursue their legal rights. They can also provide guidance on preparing the best case and argument for these rights.

Source: The Spruce, "Grandparents' Rights in Indiana," Susan Adcox, August 7, 2016

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