Indiana SB 106 was introduced in January 2019 and it is still pending. If approved, the bill would mean some big changes for grandparent and great grandparent visitation rights. Indiana’s current statute allows grandparents to seek visitation in very limited circumstances. Those circumstances include the death of the grandchild’s parent, the grandchild’s parents divorcing, or the grandchild being born out of wedlock. SB 106 would make the following changes to current law for grandparents' rights.
First, the new bill would extend grandparent visitation to great grandparents. Currently in Indiana, great grandparents do not have standing to seek visitation. An article in The Indiana Lawyer quotes Jan Keefer, an attorney, who points out that great grandparents are sometimes under 70 and still able to care for children. With the new bill, such great grandparents could seek and potentially gain visitation rights if they meet the other elements required.
Second, the proposed bill would give standing for grandparents and great grandparents to seek visitation if they can establish there was meaningful contact with the grandchild. This potentially allows visitation under a broader range of circumstances than just the three noted above under current law. According to the same article in The Indiana Lawyer, one of the bill authors, Sen. Lonnie Randolph, hopes these changes would help grandparents in situations where parents are withholding visitation with bad intentions, such as using the grandchild as a pawn.
Third, SB 106 delineates specific factors for the court to analyze when determining whether grandparent or great grandparent visitation is appropriate. Some factors mirror those in custody disputes, such as consideration of the wishes of the parties involved, including the wishes of the grandchild if 14 or older. Other factors include the grandchild’s interactions with the grandparents and great grandparents and the physical and mental health of all the parties involved. Another relevant consideration, if the bill became law, would be whether the grandparent or great grandparent assumed a caregiver role.
Many consider SB 106 to be an expansion of grandparents' rights. Because of this, although the bill is bipartisan, it has elicited some controversy. Time will tell whether the new bill is passed and grandparent visitation law changed.
This information is provided for educational purposes and not intended as legal advice.