When parents decide to divorce, it is not just the relationship between the children and the parents that are strained. At times, grandparents in Indiana and elsewhere are impacted by divorce, as the process itself and the post-divorce decisions could significantly interrupt the relationship a grandparent has with the children. While it might feel as though grandparents have no say, as they are not the parents, the reality is that they do have rights. It is possible to take legal measures to secure and protect grandparents’ rights.
Based on Indiana code 31-17-5, grandparents have the right to seek visitation. Specifically, it states that grandparents may seek visitation rights if the marriage of the child’s parents was dissolved in Indiana. It is also possible to evoke grandparents’ rights if a child was born out of wedlock; however, the father of the child needs to be established through paternity. In order to establish these rights, grandparents need to file a petition with the court.
When a court is determining whether or not to visitation should be granted, the court considers the best interests of the child or children. This means they will look at whether the grandparents have previously had or made attempts to have meaningful contact with the child or children. In some cases, the court may speak with the child to gain their perspective; however, this is often dependent on the child’s age. Lastly, the court will consider any factors as to why a relationship has not been formed and whether any issues exist that could be detrimental or unsafe for the child.
If visitation is determined to be in the best interests of the child or children, an order will be established. Much like a custody order for the parents, visitation rights for grandparents can be modified. This could result in more or less time given to the grandparents, depending on the circumstances.
While a divorce is most impactful on the couple splitting and the children they share, the pain of divorce could extend further than the nuclear family. Immediate and extended family members, such as grandparents, may experience difficulties in maintaining a relationship with their grandchildren. If this is the case, it is possible to take legal steps to protects one’s grandparents’ rights and in turn protect their relationship with their grandchildren.