By: Nicole Makris, Attorney
A grandparent may seek visitation rights with a child if 1) a parent of the child has passed away; 2) the parents’ marriage has been dissolved in Indiana; or 3) if the child’s parents were not married when the child was born. It is important that paternity of the child be established, otherwise a paternal grandparent cannot be granted visitation. If there is an adoption proceeding pending regarding the child, a petition for grandparent visitation must be filed before a decree of adoption is entered.
When a grandparent requests visitation, the court considers whether the visitation would be in the best interests of the child and whether the requesting grandparent has had or attempted to have meaningful contact with the child. There are specific factors that courts are required to consider when determining whether grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interests. Following the United States Supreme Court case Troxel v. Granville, the factors that the court must address when a grandparent requests visitation are 1) a presumption that a fit parent’s decision regarding grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interests; 2) the “special weight” that is given to the decision of a fit parent; 3) “some weight” given to whether the parent has completely denied grandparent visitation or has allowed some visitation; and 4) whether the requesting grandparent has met the burden of showing that grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interests.
The requesting grandparents have the burden of proof in these cases, and these factors emphasize the amount of deference that is given to a fit parent’s wishes regarding the grandparents’ contact with the child. The judge may allow an in-camera (in chambers) interview of the child to help determine whether grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interest.
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