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Caring For Generations

When Different Fields of Law Overlap: Grandparents’ Visitation Rights

On Behalf of | Jan 9, 2016 | Estate Planning

“There is a great deal of overlap between estate planning and family law,” explains California lawyer Christina McPherson.

Why would knowledge of estate planning be important for a divorce lawyer? Once the divorce is done, McPherson point outs, you need to change the beneficiaries on your retirement accounts and life insurance, update your will and estate plan, your powers of attorney, and the guardians for your children.

Why would knowledge of family law be important for an estate planning attorney, McPherson asks? First, she points out, where there is a blended family (one or both spouses had children from a prior relationship), there are issues that will impact the estate planning for each parent. If property had been put into a jointly owned trust, there will be estate planning issues to be dealt with.

At the estate planning and elder law firm of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, it’s hardly unusual for us to encounter overlap between estate planning and family law. Just one example arises when grandparents who are planning to leave legacies to grandchildren share their frustration at not having been granted greater visitation opportunities with those grandchildren.
An article in the Indiana Lawyer has a title expressing that very frustration: “Indiana grandparents petitioning for visitation face long odds.” “Indiana, like many states, continues to struggle to balance the rights of parents to raise their children with the desire of grandparents to be a part of the children’s lives,” Marilyn Odendahl writes.

Indiana law enables grandparents to seek visitation rights in three circumstances:

  • The child’s parents are deceased
  • The child’s parents are divorced
  • The child was born out of wedlock

Still, if grandparents are allowed some contact with their grandchildren, no matter how limited, the grandparents have no grounds to petition the court, the article points out. The presumption is that the parents have the right to decide what is in the best interests of the child, and, as Indiana Legal Servicesexplains, “The courts will probably not interfere with a parent’s decision on how much visitation to give you.”

At Geyer & Associates, we address these issues with grandparents, and where appropriate, refer our clients to a family law professional for special help fighting for grandparental visitation rights.