Grandparents plan an integral role in their grandchildren’s lives, so when a parent cuts off contact for whatever reason — whether because of divorce, death of the other parent or a family feud — it can hurt both the child and the grandparent. Though Indiana law does not particularly favor grandparents’ rights, it does provide some options for relief.
According to IN.gov, one can find language explaining grandparents’ rights to visitation under statute IC 31-17-5. Per this statute, a grandparent may pursue visitation rights if the state of Indiana dissolved the marriage between the child’s parents. After filing for rights, the courts will consider whether granting the motion would be in the child’s best interests. To determine this, a judge will consider whether the petitioner has had or tried to have meaningful interaction with the child.
As one can see, the state’s statute on the matter leaves a lot of room for interpretation. LiveAbout attempts to provide more clarity on the matter by exploring relevant court cases.
In Troxel v. Granville the Supreme Court decided the Indiana courts may grant grandparents visitation rights. Despite this, however, family judges remain hesitant regarding the quality and amount of visitation they must demand of parents. The case also set the precedent that if parents already allow contact, regardless of how infrequent or brief, Indiana courts are not to intervene.
In several other cases, higher courts ruled in such a way as to provide clear distinctions between parents’ legal rights and the rights of grandparents. For instance, in several cases the lower courts granted grandparents ample visitation time. The higher courts overturned the rulings during appeals, citing that no matter how big of a role a grandparent plays in a child’s life, the courts should not use the Parenting Time Guidelines to determine visitation amounts.
In a 2003 case, the higher courts upheld the visitation time the lower courts awarded but denied the grandparents the communication privileges and travel time they had also received. The reason for the denial was that the lower courts had borrowed those provisions from the Parenting Guidelines.