Understanding the Indiana Grandparent Visitation Statute
When child custody has been determined by the court, do grandparents have visitation rights in Indiana? The answer is yes, but they are much more limited than those of a child’s parents. The Indiana grandparent visitation statute, contained in Indiana Code 31-17-5, outlines the eligibility requirements for grandparents to file a request for court-ordered visitation rights, as well as the procedures involved in gaining these rights and others.
This article will break down the Indiana grandparent visitation statute and explain each part of the filing process. However, the Indiana Department of Child Services recommends that grandparents facing legal matters regarding visitation consult with an Indianapolis family attorney. If you’d like to speak with one today, call Keffer Hirschauer LLP at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form. Our team of family law attorneys can help you navigate the court system and laws related to Indiana grandparent rights.
Indiana Grandparent Visitation Statute: Eligibility
Indiana Code on Grandparent Visitation is clear regarding who is eligible to file a request for court-ordered visitation rights. Per Indiana Code 31-17-5-1, “[a] child’s grandparent may seek visitation rights if: the child’s parent is deceased; the marriage of the child’s parents has been dissolved in Indiana; or subject to subsection (b), the child was born out of wedlock.” The statute goes further in subsection b, stating that, “[a] court may not grant visitation rights to a paternal grandparent of a child who is born out of wedlock if the child’s father has not established paternity in relation to the child.”
What this all means is that, under the Indiana grandparent visitation statute, grandparents are within their legal right to request court-ordered visitation rights if the child’s parent has passed away or the parents have divorced. If the child was born out of wedlock, the maternal grandparents may request court-ordered visitation rights, but the paternal grandparents may only do so if the father has established paternity.
Indiana Grandparent Visitation Statute: Petitioning
In accordance with Indiana Code 31-17-5-3, grandparents who seek court-ordered visitation with their grandchild(ren) must begin the process by filing a petition entitled, “In Re the Visitation of (child’s name).” This petition, as required in Indiana Code 31-17-5-4 must be filed with the circuit, superior or probate court of the county in which the child resides in a case (for deceased parents, a child born out of wedlock, and out-of-state divorce). In the case of an Indiana divorce, the petition must be filed with the court that has jurisdiction over the dissolution of the parents’ marriage. So, for example, if the child lives in Marion County, but the child’s parents were divorced in Hamilton County and a court in that county still has jurisdiction over the divorce, the petition must be filed with the relevant court in Hamilton County.
Per Indiana Code on Grandparent Visitation, the petition must be filed by the grandparent entitled to receive visitation rights. The petition must also be verified and state the following items:
- The names and relationships of the petitioning grandparent(s)
- The names and relationships of each child with whom visitation is sought
- The names and relationships of the custodial parent or guardian of each child
- The present address of each person named in the clause
- The date of birth of each child with whom visitation is sought
- The status upon which the grandparent seeks visitation (parent’s deceased, divorced, child out of wedlock)
- The relief sought (or what outcome the petitioner hopes to obtain)
While filing a petition with the court may seem straightforward, it is easier than you would imagine to make a mistake. To ensure that you are filling your petition for grandparent visitation correctly, you will need to consult an experienced Indiana grandparent visitation attorney. To speak with one today, call Keffer Hirschauer LLP at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form. We can discuss and evaluate all of your legal options, given the circumstances of your petition, and begin drafting your request as soon as possible. But remember, time is of the essence when it comes to matters like these. Circumstances can change overnight and impact your chances of having your visitation request granted by the court.
Indiana Code on Grandparent Visitation: Summons to Be Served
When a petition for court-ordered visitation is filed, Indiana Code 31-17-5-5 requires that a copy of the petition, as well as a copy of a summons, be served upon the custodial and noncustodial parent or guardian of each child named in the petition. Furthermore, this summons must be served in the same general manner that summons are served in other civil actions.
Indiana Code on Grandparent Visitation: Best Interest of the Child
When evaluating a grandparent’s petition for visitation rights, the court will refer to the Indiana grandparent visitation statute, specifically, Indiana Code 31-17-5-2. This part of the Indiana Code on grandparent visitation outlines how the court may determine whether the visitation rights of the grandparents are in the “best interest of the child.” When making this determination, the court may:
- Consider whether a grandparent(s) had or has attempted to have meaningful contact with the child
- Interview the child in chambers to assist the court in determining the child’s perception of whether visitation by a grandparent is in their best interests
- Permit counsel to be present at the interview; if so, counsel may record the interview and enter it as part of the record for purposes of appeal
Upon hearing the evidence, both in support of and opposition to the petition, the court shall enter a decree setting forth the court’s finding and its conclusions, either in granting or denying the requested visitation rights of the grandparents.
Indiana Grandparent Visitation Statute: Modification of Grandparent Visitation Orders
The Indiana grandparent visitation statute does allow for modifications to court-ordered visitation rights. Per Indiana Code 31-17-5-7, the court may allow for a modification of an order that either grants or denies visitation rights when the court believes the modification would be in the best interest of the child. Indiana Code on grandparent visitation goes on to clarify that modifications cannot be made in situations regarding the establishment of paternity or the adoption of a child by a family member.
When a child is born out of wedlock, Indiana Code 31-17-5-8 states the visitation rights that were provided for grandparents in section one or section ten of this chapter survive the establishment of paternity of a child by court proceeding. Furthermore, visitation rights provided for grandparents in section one or section ten, survive the adoption of a child if they are adopted by a stepparent or a biological family member, such as a grandparent, sibling, uncle, aunt, niece, or nephew.
Seeking Assistance with Grandparent Visitation Rights in Indiana?
Issues related to grandparent visitation often surface after the death of a parent, the divorce of the child’s parents, or when the parent(s) of the grandchild are not competent or fit to care for their child(ren). In situations like these, it’s not uncommon for the relationship between the parents and grandparents to be strained, and the grandparents may worry that they will no longer be able to maintain a healthy relationship with their grandchildren. When this occurs, the grandparents may require the counsel of an experienced Indiana family law attorney to help them evaluate their legal options related to visitation. If they choose to proceed forward, their attorney can then assist them in the process of filling a request for court-ordered visitation.
If you find yourself in a situation where you feel that you may need to file a request for visitation to maintain a relationship with your grandchildren, the family law attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP can assist and guide you through the process. However, these matters are often time-sensitive and must be addressed before or as soon as problems arise. To begin working on your request, call our family legal team today at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form.