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A primer on Indiana grandparents' rights

Indiana grandparents have the legal right to seek visitation with their grandchildren under certain circumstances.
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    December 24, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- A primer on Indiana grandparents' rights

Article provided by The Bellinger Law Office
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Grandparents play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren. Grandparents are key to learning about the family's history and can provide an untold amount of love and affection to a child. Unfortunately, when a couple divorces or separates, it can leave grandparents and other relatives without access to the children. Indiana law recognizes how important the relationship between grandparent and grandchild can be, which is why the state's legislature established statutes that allow grandparents to request visitation time.

The law

The law governing grandparent visitation requests is found in Indiana Code 31-17-5. It sets forth the circumstances in which grandparents can as the court to order time with their grandchildren (if the parents cannot independently agree to grant such a request). Such a request is not always appropriate, nor is it always granted; the law doesn't guarantee visitation time, it simply allows grandparents the opportunity to request it. Even knowing the importance of the relationship between grandchildren and their grandparents, Indiana law treats visitation between the two as a privilege, not as a right.

The process is, in many ways, an uphill battle for the grandparents involved. First, the grandparents must show, pursuant to Indiana Code 31-17-5-1, that they have the right to make a request for visitation. In order to make a request, the grandparents must first show that one of the following situations exists:
-The child's parent or parents is/are deceased
-The parents are divorced
-The parents were never married and paternity has been established

It is important to note that a child's paternal grandparents have no visitation rights under Indiana law if the parents were never married and the child's paternity has not been legally established (see IC 31-17-5-1(b)).

Making the determination

Once grandparents have met the above criteria and filed a valid claim for visitation, it is up to an Indiana family court judge to make a decision whether to grant the request. This determination is made based upon, similar to an initial child custody determination, an analysis of the child's best interests (see IC 31-17-5-2). Under this provision, judges have the authority to consider the child's wishes, the grandparents' previous attempts (if any) to have "meaningful contact" with the child, and other factors deemed relevant to the decision.

Finding help

Do you have questions about grandparents' rights in Indiana? Are you interested in making a request to spend time with your own grandchildren? To learn more about the process of requesting visitation, and to get help navigating the state's family court system, contact an Indiana family law attorney.

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