Grandparent Visitation Rights in Missouri
Provided by HG.org
In some instances, a grandparent may wish to get a court order that specifically establishes his or her rights. Missouri has very specific laws on this subject and a process in which a grandparent may ask a court to provide for visitation rights.
History of Third Party Visitation Rights
Traditionally, grandparents, stepparents, siblings and extended family may have helped share in the childcare responsibilities. However, courts typically found that the biological parents of a child had the right to prohibit access to their children to such third parties. The courts assumed that the parents were acting in the child’s best interests. When couples divorced, many times extended families lost contact with the children. While there has been more recognition of the rights of some third parties to have access to children, these rights continue to be secondary to the rights of the legal parents.
According to Missouri’s family laws, the court may grant grandparent visitation under very limited circumstances. The first scenario arises when the parents of a child are filing for divorce. The grandparents can file a motion to intervene so that they can request reasonable visitation. If a decree has already been ordered and the grandparent has been denied visitation, he or she can ask to modify the decree.
Another time when a grandparent can ask for reasonable visitation is when the parent of a child is deceased and the surviving parent denies the decedent’s parent reasonable visitation with the child.
A grandparent can also ask for reasonable visitation if the child resided with the grandparent for a minimum of six months within the two years from the filing of the petition. Finally, if a grandparent has been denied visitation with the child for at least 90 days, he or she can request visitation. In any case, grandparents cannot petition for visitation if the parents of the child are legally married together and continue to reside with each other.
Best Interest of the Child
As with other decisions related to the child, the legal standard that the court considers is whether grandparent visitation would be in the best interest of the child. In contrast, the court considers whether visitation would pose a threat to the child’s physical health or his or her emotional development. The court will only grant visitation rights if the court determines that it is in the best interest of the child. The court can issue the visitation that it finds appropriate and can also impose reasonable conditions or restrictions on the visitation.
Guardian Ad Litem
In some instances, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of the child. This is an attorney who is licensed to practice law in Missouri. He or she may participate in the proceedings and be heard by the court.
Determining Best Interest
The court may consider several factors in determining the best interest of the child. Additionally, the court may conduct a further analysis to make this decision, including conducting a home study or talking to the child about his or her own wishes.
In actions regarding grandparent visitation rights, the court may award the prevailing party attorney’s fees and the cost of legal expenses.
Rather than going through a contested hearing, the grandparents can ask the court to order the parents to mediation so that the parties can work out a mutually agreeable solution. Mediation involves a third party neutral who tries to help the parties reach their own agreement rather than having a judge decide this issue for them. Mediation has the benefit of being less costly than a contested hearing. It also allows the parties to cooperate so that they can tailor an agreement that is based on their particular needs and preferences, such as school or work schedules.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.