In many families, grandparents play an essential role in the care and upbringing of a child. For some, this means semi-regular visits with the grandkids; for other families, grandparents may be asked to provide childcare while one or both parents are working routinely. Regardless of the particular family arrangements, it’s safe to say that the relationship between a grandparent and grandchild can be a very special one.
Of course, not every family arrangement is perfect. With so much emotion involved in the love and care for a child, it’s understandable that each of the adults involved will have their own view, hopes, and frustrations when things don’t go according to plan. When grandparents’ time becomes limited or disappears due to conflict, it’s common for them to ask about their legal rights to visitation or custody of a grandchild.
While Indiana law does allow grandparents to seek visitation time, it’s one of the most complicated and nuanced areas of family law. For this reason, it is highly recommended that anyone involved in a grandparent visitation case hire or least consult with an experienced Indiana family law attorney. However, there are some essential elements, restrictions, and laws that can be helpful to review for any family worried about grandparents’ visitation rights.
How Does Grandparent Visitation Fit Into Indiana Family Law?
The right to custody of a child is an issue of constitutional law, as the United States Constitution guarantees parents the right to raise their children how they see fit. Parents are the only ones guaranteed custody to care for their child, barring any sort of intervention from child protective services. Grandparents, on the other hand, are not given this right by default. Instead, for years courts have allowed grandparents to petition for visitation time with a grandchild.
In 2000, the Supreme Court saw Troxel v Washington, a landmark case regarding grandparent visitation rights. After a grandmother had been limited by the child’s parents to one visit per month, she petitioned the courts to increase the time. After deliberation, this was determined to be an infringement of parental rights to raise their child as they choose.
However, Troxel did not make any rulings or findings that grandparent visitation itself is unconstitutional. So, while the case didn’t officially take the decision out of the state’s hands, what it did do is give much more considerable deference to the wishes of the parents. The lasting effect is a generally stricter, less flexible petition process for grandparents.
Indiana Grandparent Visitation Cases
Grandparents can petition a court to grant them visitation time, but only if it meets one of a few specific requirements. Those are:
- The child’s parent is dead
- The child’s parents have divorced
- The child was born out of wedlock, although paternity must have been established
If one or more of these requirements are indeed met, the grandparent has standing, and a hearing will be set. It’s important to understand, though, that meeting the required circumstance does not guarantee visitation; it only allows the grandparent to argue their case in front of a judge. Ultimately, the decision will be made by the judge after he or she considers not just each side’s arguments, but extenuating circumstances that could impact the overall wellbeing of the child.
There is no set standard for determining or measuring the best interest of a child. Ultimately, a parent’s decision about what’s best for their child usually carries the most legal weight. However, courts will also focus attention on evaluating the relationship between the grandparent and child, the grandparent and parent, and the overall strength (or weakness) of the family as a unit. In the end, though, everything will come down to what is best for the child in the opinion of the judge.
Grandparents’ Visitation Rights: A Job for Indiana Family Law Attorneys
Here at BB&C, we know just how important and challenging family cases can get. The courtroom can feel like an emotional warzone at times, with family in-fighting, bad blood, and a level of personal attachment that is unique to this area of practice. There’s also the issue of testimonies, especially when a child is asked to take the stand.
For grandparents fighting for visitation rights, it’s safe to say that it’s going to be an uphill battle. With the law firmly siding with the wishes of the parent, nearly all of the burden lies on the grandparent’s side. That being said, some family feuds just can’t be worked out so quickly.
So, if you’re verging on getting involved in one of these cases on either side, consider contacting the Indiana family law attorneys of Bennett, Boehning, and Clary. We believe that every family law case is unique and can be decided on very small details. Reach out to Elaine Griffin at 765-742-9066 if you need an advocate and someone to fight for you.
The content of this blog is intended to be general and informational in nature. It is advertising material and is not intended to be, nor is it, legal advice to or for any particular person, case, or circumstance. Each situation is different, and you should consult an attorney if you have any questions about your situation.