Missouri statutes provide for certain circumstances in which a Court may award grandparents reasonable, legally enforceable rights of visitation with their grandchild (or grandchildren). To do so the Court must find that it is in the child’s best interests to grant such visitation to the grandparents.
The statute outlines four situations in which the Court may grant visitation rights to grandparents:
- If there are Divorced or Divorcing Parents – Whenever parents of the child file for a divorce, a grandparent has the right to intervene in a dissolution action solely on the issue of visitation rights. Grandparents also have the right to file a Motion to Modify a divorce decree when visitation with a grandchild is being denied to them after a divorce between the child’s parents has been finalized.
- If there is a Deceased Parent – If one of the parents of the child is deceased, and the surviving parent will not let the mother and/or father of the child’s deceased parent have reasonable visitation with the child, the parents of the deceased parent can file an action in Court seeking reasonable visitation rights with their grandchild.
- If the child has recently lived with Grandparents – If the child has resided with the Grandparent(s) for at least six (6) months within the twenty-four (24) month period immediately preceding the filing of the petition, grandparents can file a petition seeking visitation rights with that grandchild.
- If the grandparent is unreasonably denied visitation with the child for more than 3 months – Grandparents have to be denied visitation with their grandchild for more than 90 days to file a court proceeding under this subsection. However, if the parents of the child are married and living with the child, then grandparents may not file under this subsection of the statute.
The statute which provides for grandparent visitation rights creates a rebuttable presumption in all actions filed under this statute that when the parents of the child are legally married and living together with the child that they, the parents, know what is in their child’s best interests. However, this presumption can be rebutted with proper and sufficient evidence.
The Court will examine all of the facts and circumstances of each case, including, in the Court’s discretion, the wishes of the child.
The statute also provides that the judge may appoint a guardian ad litem to act as an attorney for the child and look out for the child’s best interests in these proceedings. The Court may also order home studies be done to assist the Court in its determination of what is in the child’s best interests.
The Court will refuse to grant grandparent visitation rights if the Court finds that such visitation shall endanger the child’s physical health or impair the child’s emotional development.
In the event the Court sees fit to grant the petitioning grandparent visitation rights, the judge may impose reasonable restrictions and conditions on those rights.
The primary consideration at all times, in any court proceeding for child custody or visitation, is the best interests of the child. Grandparents’ visitation actions are no different.
If our office can be of any assistance, please call us at (636) 937-4994.