Published in Family Law by Chris Eskew on August 22, 2022.
If you’re a grandparent concerned about your grandchildren’s health and safety or continuing your relationship and bond, talk with a family attorney at Eskew Law.
We’ll explain grandparents’ rights in Indiana and your options.
We know these are often emotional situations, and you don’t want to hurt or demonize your grandchild’s mom or dad.
We’re here to guide you in making sure your grandchild is OK and gets to have grandma and grandpa in their life.
Does Indiana Have Grandparent’s Rights?
Grandparents have some rights when it comes to seeing and taking care of their grandchildren in Indiana. But the law limits those rights.
In Indiana, legal parents have the right to care and make decisions for their children with minimal interference. That means if parents decide their children won’t spend time with their grandparents, the court won’t undo that decision.
The law operates under the assumption that fit parents will make the best decisions for their children.
Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights in Indiana?
Grandparents don’t have the legal right to step in and control parenting or demand to see their grandchildren. A grandparent might have a right to visitation if:
- Their grandchild’s parents were never married (the grandchild was born out of wedlock);
- Their grandchild’s parents’ marriage has been dissolved in Indiana; or
- Their grandchild’s parent has passed away.
Also, if the grandchild was born to unmarried parents, the paternal grandparents can only ask for visitation if the grandchild’s father has established paternity in relation to that child.
These rules are from Indiana’s Grandparent Visitation Act. If you believe you’re eligible for visitation as a grandparent, you can file a petition with the court.
You’ll have to show the court that visitation with your grandchild or grandchildren is in their best interests.
In determining what’s in the child’s best interests, the court can consider whether you, as a grandparent, have had or have attempted to have meaningful contact with the child in the past.
In other words, it may help if you can show you have or had an ongoing relationship with your grandchild.
The judge may talk with the child directly to determine their thoughts on the situation, too.
It often frustrates grandparents, but just because you used to see your grandchildren more often doesn’t mean you’ll be awarded visitation rights.
That’s why it’s important to consult a lawyer regarding grandparent’s rights in Indiana.
Can Grandparents Get Custody of their Grandchildren?
If one parent passes away, the other parent may retain all parental rights, including legal and physical custody of the child.
A grandparent or another relative may petition for custody under particular and limited circumstances only.
For example, grandparents may take care of their grandchildren if the parents are under investigation by the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS). This way, the children stay with family and don’t go into foster care with strangers.
Other situations that may cause a court to award grandparents custody are when:
- The parents agree to it;
- The parents have abandoned or neglected the child;
- The parents have abused the child; or
- The parents are unfit.
A parent is deemed unfit if a court finds that parent is unable to provide proper care, support, and guidance. Generally, this is a high burden of proof in Indiana.
The law presumes a fit parent should have custody of his or her children.
A grandparent seeking custody will have to overcome that presumption with evidence the parents can’t or won’t provide a safe and healthy environment for the children.
Whatever the situation, the judge will consider the child’s best interests above all else.
Can Grandparents Become Guardians of Their Grandchildren?
When a child’s parents can’t take care of them for a time, grandparents may petition for guardianship of the child.
Guardianship is a legal relationship during which an adult has full custody and care of a minor. It gives them the right to access services for them, like taking them to the doctor or enrolling them in school.
However, the parents haven’t lost their parental rights when guardianship is in effect. The relationship can end when circumstances change, such as when a parent gets out of prison or recovers from a serious illness.
Grandparents can obtain guardianship in two ways: the legal parents may agree to it privately, or a grandparent may petition the court for guardianship of the child.
Without a court order confirming a grandparent’s guardianship of the child, a parent could remove their child from a grandparent’s custody at any time.
Can Grandparents Adopt Their Grandchildren?
Grandparents may petition to adopt their grandchildren in several situations, including but not limited to if both parents are deceased, abandon the child, involuntarily lose their parental rights, or consent to the adoption.
Even if one parent passes away, is in prison, or loses parental rights, the other parent would typically retain full physical and legal custody unless a court determines otherwise.
What if I’m Already Taking Care of My Grandchildren?
We often see grandparents become “de facto custodians” of their grandchildren. That means, for whatever reason, your grandchildren live with and rely on you.
We highly recommend you contact an Indiana grandparents’ rights lawyer to solidify your rights in this situation.
If there’s evidence the child’s parents have abandoned them or aren’t capable of parenting, you may be able to petition for legal guardianship or move forward with adoption.
Want to Know More About Indiana’s Grandparent Rights?
If you’re a grandparent in Indiana and want to see your grandchildren more often or need to take care of them full time, talk with the experienced family attorneys at Eskew Law.
We’ve helped many grandparents navigate Indiana family law, whether they needed to establish guardianship, adopt a grandchild, or simply ask for visitation.
Contact Eskew Law today to schedule your initial consultation.