Within divorce and custody proceedings, often neither parent feels that they have received enough parenting time with the child. Under the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines, generally, for a non-custodial parent (one without primary physical custody) of a school-age child who lives in close proximity to the custodial parent receives weekly parenting time, at a minimum, of one evening per week and every other weekend1.
The situation becomes more complicated when a grandparent seeks time with the child. This situation occurs most often when a non-custodial parent does not exercise parenting time, or is unable to do so for various reasons, and the non-custodial grandparents, are unable to spend time with the child. Other situations may occur, where the parents may not allow grandparents time with the child, due to family acrimony and parents who try to exclude grandparents from the child. For example, grandparents often desire time with children of divorce or paternity, and there is even a Grandparent Visitation Act (GVA) that addresses this relationship and the boundaries thereof2.
When grandparents petition for time with the child, it is considered visitation time, not parenting time as a non-custodial parent would receive. “Visitation” is then a term of which has been further defined by courts throughout Indiana. This issue can become even more complex if the grandparents contend that they are de facto custodians, and if they are deemed same, they may receive parenting time as opposed to visitation. These complexities will not be discussed in this particular blog post.
The GVA was established to foster the relationship between grandchildren and grandparents, but offers restrictions to allow parents to raise their children as they see fit. Grandparent visitation only applies if the child’s parent is deceased, the child’s parents divorced in Indiana, or the child was born out of wedlock3.
In these instances, grandparents may seek visitation if it is in the best interests of the child. Further, the Court may consider whether the grandparents have had or attempted to have meaningful contact with the child4. However, the Court will also consider the parents and their wishes as it pertains to visitation by the grandparents.
Several cases have addressed the issue of grandparent visitation, and the central theme is that grandparent time is not akin to that described in the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines for non-custodial parents. Grandparents may receive occasional and temporary visitation if it is determined to be in the best interests of the child5.
While the relationship between grandparent and grandchild is a special one, federal and Indiana cases have provided boundaries for same6. Grandparents may receive occasional and temporary visitation when found to be in the best interests of the child, but parents retain the fundamental right to raise their child(ren) as they see fit.
Occasional and temporary visitation has been treated as approximately one weekend per month, with some time potentially in the summer, or around a holiday or for other special occasions.
We hope that this blog post has shed some light on the complex and emotional issue of grandparent visitation and the limitations thereon. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorneys, Julie Dixon and Jessica Keyes.