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Indianapolis Grandparent Visitation Attorney

Grandparent visitationWhat legal rights do grandparents have in Indiana? Grandparents in Indiana have some rights to visitation with and custody of their grandchildren, although their rights are far less extensive than those of a child’s parents. The laws regarding grandparents’ rights in Indiana are quite specific when it comes to eligibility to file a request for court-ordered visitation rights and the procedures involved in gaining these rights and others. The Indiana Department of Child Services recommends that grandparents facing legal matters regarding their grandchildren consult with an attorney. An Indianapolis grandparent visitation attorney from Keffer Hirschauer LLP can help you navigate the court system and laws related to Indiana grandparent rights.

When Do You Need an Indianapolis Grandparent Visitation Attorney?

There are many scenarios in which a grandparent needs the services of an experienced attorney for grandparents’ rights in Indiana. Issues related to grandchild visitation or custody may arise after the death of a child’s parent, when your grandchild’s parents divorce, or when the parent or parents of your grandchild are not competent or fit to care for the child or children. In these and other cases, your relationship with the grandchild’s parent or parents might be strained and you might be concerned about losing the ability to maintain a relationship with your grandchild or grandchildren. Some common questions we hear from grandparents in these situations include:

  • What legal rights do grandparents have regarding grandchildren in Indiana?
  • Can a parent deny a grandparent visitation with a grandchild?
  • Do grandparents have custody rights in Indiana?

An Indianapolis grandparent visitation attorney from Keffer Hirschauer LLP can answer these and other questions and show the court how the relevant laws affecting grandparents’ rights in Indiana favor your specific situation.

Maternal or Paternal Grandparent Defined

Indiana Code § 31-9-2-77 defines “maternal or paternal grandparent” with the purpose of applying the definition to state law regarding grandparent visitation. Under this law, a grandparent is the biological or adoptive parent of the child’s parent. The parent of a child’s adoptive parent is also considered a grandparent under Indiana law.

What Legal Rights Do Grandparents Have in Indiana?

Individuals who fit the definition of a grandparent in Indiana have the right to petition the court for visitation rights with their grandchild or grandchildren under the following circumstances:

  • Their child, the parent of the grandchild, is deceased
  • The marriage of the parents of the grandchild is dissolved
  • The parents of the child were not married at the time of birth

Obviously, these scenarios do not include all of the potential situations in which Indiana grandparent rights need to be protected. For example, paternal grandparents with a son whose paternity has not been established or recognized by the court or the State of Indiana do not have the right to file for visitation privileges with the son’s child or children.

The visitation rights of a grandparent are not dependent on their child’s visitation rights. For example, the denial of visitation rights to a non-custodial parent does not affect court-ordered grandparent visitation for his or her parents. To some extent, court orders of visitation rights for grandparents in Indiana can also protect those privileges when the custodial parent attempts to relocate. The court may consider excessive burdens related to grandparent visitation in deciding relocation cases. On the other hand, if relocation is granted or other changes in circumstances are brought to the court’s attention, the court can modify grandparent visitation orders at any time if it is in the best interest of the child or children.

Can a Parent Deny a Grandparent Visitation with a Grandchild in Indiana?

If a court orders visitation rights in accordance with Indiana Code § 31-17-5-1 or § 31-17-5-10, the parent or parents must comply. However, when both parents of the child are still living and married to each other, Indiana law does not offer grandparents the ability to bypass the parents’ wishes if they agree not to allow the grandparents to see or have a relationship with the children.

If this applies to you and you believe your grandchild or grandchildren are in danger or are not being provided and cared for appropriately, you might be able to pursue legal custody or other options. These cases are extremely complex and require the assistance of an experienced Indiana family law attorney. An Indianapolis grandparent visitation attorney from Keffer Hirschauer LLP can assist clients in cases in which child custody or additional legal rights need to be considered.

An Indianapolis Grandparent Visitation Attorney Can Help You File a Petition for Visitation Rights

A grandparent who wishes to file for visitation rights in Indiana must file a petition with the appropriate court. Indiana Code § 31-17-5-3 details the specific details to be included in the petition. Most cases should be filed in the circuit, superior, or probate court in the county where the grandchild resides.

However, in cases of visitation rights sought on the basis of the parents’ divorce, the petition should be filed in the county with jurisdiction over the divorce proceedings. When the parents’ marriage is dissolved in a state other than Indiana, additional requirements apply under Indiana Code § 31-17-5-10. An Indianapolis grandparent visitation attorney from Keffer Hirschauer will help you file the grandparent visitation petition properly to avoid the unnecessary issues that can arise as a result from filing errors.

When a grandparent files a petition for visitation rights, the parents or guardians of the child are notified by a court summons. The decision of whether or not to grant Indiana grandparent rights of visitation is at the discretion of the court. The primary factor to be considered by the court in these cases is the best interests of the child. The court may also evaluate the child’s previous relationship and interactions with the grandparent and may interview the child or children in chambers to obtain additional information about the relationship.

Do Grandparents Have Custody Rights in Indiana?

Unfortunately, there are times when parents are unable to properly provide and care for their children. In these cases, grandparents’ rights in Indiana can include the right to custody of those children in some cases. An action to request custody of a child in Indiana can be filed by a parent or any other person seeking custody of a child. When these actions are filed, the court must evaluate all relevant information about the child’s interactions with the parents and grandparents and decide what child custody solution serves the child or children’s best interests.

When a grandparent has provided care for a child without legal custody orders, the court may consider that person a de facto custodian. If a parent wishes to resume care of the child and the grandparent disagrees, legal intervention may be necessary. In these cases, the court considers the extent of the care that was provided by the de facto custodian as well as the conditions under which the parent left the child in that person’s care. A grandparent determined by a court to be a de facto custodian has the right to be a party to any child custody and visitation proceedings and may be granted custody if the court finds it to be in the child or children’s best interest.

Another scenario that can result in grandparents seeking custody of grandchildren occurs when the State removes children from their parents’ custody. In these cases, the adult relatives of the child or children—including grandparents—must be notified of the removal. When this happens, the notice must contain information regarding the options for family members to pursue placement of the children in their homes, including temporary emergency placement, foster care, adoption, and guardianship. Family members who do not respond to these notices may lose their rights to obtain custody of the children later in the legal process.

Grandparents or other family members, especially if they have assumed responsibility for the care of the children before the removal from parental custody, do have some priority when it comes to placing children removed from their parents' care. Indiana Code § 31-34-4-2 states that preference for child custody in cases of removal from the parents should be given first to suitable and willing relatives or de facto custodians.

Do Indiana Grandparent Rights Survive Adoption?

Grandparents who wish to retain visitation rights with their grandchildren but are not willing or able to assume custody can find themselves in a difficult legal situation. If a grandparent’s visitation rights are established by a court prior to the parent or parents’ death or termination of rights, those visitation rights remain only if the child is adopted by a stepparent or a biological relative of the child, including other grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, or nephews. If you are unable to assume custody of your grandchild or grandchildren but wish to maintain a relationship with them, it is critical that you consult an Indianapolis grandparent visitation attorney to evaluate your Indiana grandparent rights before adoption proceedings take place.

Contact an Indianapolis Grandparent Visitation Attorney

An Indianapolis grandparent visitation attorney from Keffer Hirschauer LLP can help clients evaluate all of their legal options related to grandparents’ rights in Indiana. These matters are time-sensitive and need to be addressed before or as soon as problems arise. Call us at (317) 202-1163 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

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