Do Grandparents in Indiana Have Automatic Visitation Rights?

Many grandparents love their grandchildren and enjoy seeing them as much as possible. They want what is best for those children, and what they think is best may not always align with the decisions that parents are making. But do grandparents’ rights let them step into such situations, and what happens if a parent does not let a grandparent see a child often?

When Do You Have a Legal Right to Visitation Under Indiana Law?

While Indiana law does offer some protections for grandparents, it does not move grandparents in front of parents in this regard. If a child is being cared for by two married parents—and there are no issues that the court believes might indicate the parents are not able to provide adequate care—the court tends to assume the parents are making decisions in the best interest of the child.

That includes whether or not the child sees the grandparents. If, in this case, parents have decided to limit visitation with one or more grandparents, the court typically will not step in to override the parent’s wishes. That is true even if you previously saw your grandchild all the time and have a good relationship with them.

However, there are times when the family law courts in the state will decide to support a grandparent’s right to visitation. Situations where this may be true can include:

  • The child was born out of wedlock and the parents did not get married afterward. In this case, grandparents on one side of the relationship may feel that they are not being allowed to be part of the child’s life. They may want to seek legal remedies for this situation. However, the paternal grandparents can’t legally seek visitation until the father establishes paternity under the law.
  • The parents of the child or children go through a divorce. In these types of cases, one or both of the spouses may attempt to reduce grandparent involvement as a way to limit the influence or participation of the ex’s family in the child’s life. However, grandparents who have previously been a part of the child’s life or have demonstrated a desire to have a relationship with the child have some legal rights to stand on here.
  • One of the child’s parents pass away. When one parent dies, life can change pretty quickly. The remaining parent may need to move or otherwise change how they manage their and their children’s lives. For a variety of reasons, the remaining parent may not support time with their spouse’s parents. In such cases, grandparents may be able to seek visitation.

What Are Some Options for Seeking Custody as a Grandparent?

In more extreme cases, grandparents may be worried about more than seeing their grandchildren enough. In situations where parents are not able to or refuse to care for their children appropriately, grandparents may want to step in as caretakers, seeking custody of the child or children in question.

Indiana does allow for grandparents to obtain legal custody of grandchildren, but the circumstances under which this can occur are fairly limited. You have to do more than demonstrate that the parent is making decisions that don’t align with your values or how you think a child should be cared for.

Some situations that might allow for grandparent custody include:

  • When a single parent or both parents are being investigated by DCS. In such situations, it’s typically preferable for children to be cared for by their own family members rather than put into the foster care system. If grandparents are willing to take on this duty and meet the requirements for being able to provide a safe home for the child or children, they can usually take temporary custody.
  • A child has been abandoned or otherwise neglected. If you can show that the child or children aren’t being cared for, you may be able to get temporary custody. The same is true in cases where children are being abused by their parents.
  • The child’s parents agree to grandparent custody. In some cases, the parents may realize they are unable to appropriately care for their child during a certain time. They may agree to legal custody being transferred to grandparents.

What if You Already Take Care of Your Grandchildren?

There are many situations across the state of Indiana that involve grandparents acting as informal guardians for grandchildren. They may agree to let their children and grandchildren live with them or even allow parents to leave grandchildren at their homes for weeks or months at a time.

Without a legal arrangement, however, this type of situation does not protect your rights as a grandparent. Depending on the nature of the situation, the parents could decide to move with the child or take the child out of your home and not let you see them anymore. This can be traumatic for grandparents and grandchildren who have formed close bonds.

If you’re caring for your grandchildren in this manner and don’t have any legal protections set up, you may want to consult a family law attorney. The same is true if you have any reason to believe that your current relationship and visitation arrangements with a grandchild might be threatened by changes in a marriage, changes to custody arrangements, adoption, or anything else that might afford you grandparents’ visitation rights.

Reach out to the Deidre Haynes Law Office to find out how we can help advocate for your grandparents’ rights. Give us a call at 317-785-1832.