Divorce and the separation of families has consequences that reach far beyond the borders of the central family unit. Extended family members, neighbors and friends commonly bear the fallout of these situations when people move away or become less social as a consequence of the breakdown in relationships. The loss of these connections is especially likely if just one parent holds child custody rights. Grandparents, in particular, lament this separation as they typically have close ties to their grandchildren and know time spent with them will decrease and perhaps even cease as the parents work to rebuild their lives. Indiana, recognizing the positive impact a grandparent-grandchild relationship can have on a child's long-term well-being, does grant grandparents visitation rights in certain circumstances.
Grandparent Visitation Act
Grandparents can petition for visitation with their grandchildren under Indiana law in three instances:
- The child's parent is decease
- The child's parents divorce was granted by an Indiana court
- The child was born to unwed parents
For children born out-of-wedlock, visitation rights will not be granted to paternal grandparents if the paternity of the child is not established. Also, it is still possible to petition for visitation if the child's parents obtained a divorce in another state as long as Indiana courts have the necessary jurisdiction.
When a court determines if visitation is appropriate, it will look first and foremost at the best interests of the child. Specifically, the court will assess the type of relationship the grandparent previously had with the child and any attempts to maintain meaningful contact throughout the child's life. A court has the option of interviewing the child to aid its analysis of the child's best interests and may permit counsel to be present during the interview. Once visitation is granted, the court has the authority to modify or rescind the order whenever it is in the child's best interest.
Additionally, adoption will cut off a grandparent's right to ask for visitation unless the adoptive parent is one of the following:
- A biological relation of the child