Often grandparents experience difficulties visiting with their grandchildren. Sometimes grandparents become aware of a grandchild who is being treated poorly or even abused. Because of the high divorce rate many grandparents are experiencing serious problems involving their grandchildren. Many of them have been forced to take legal action. Missouri law encourages contact between grandparents and grandchildren. Missouri law allows grandparents to obtain visitation of their grandchildren over the objections of a parent only in limited situations.
Missouri statute 452.402.1 defines when grandparents can Petition the courts for visitation:
1. The court may grant reasonable visitation rights to the grandparents of the child and issue any necessary orders to enforce the decree. The court may grant grandparent visitation when:
(1) The parents of the child have filed for a dissolution of their marriage. A grandparent shall have the right tointervene in any dissolution action solely on the issue of visitation rights.Grandparents shall also have the right to file a motion to modify the original decree of dissolution to seek visitation rights when such rights have been denied to them;
(2) One parent of the child is deceased and the surviving parent denies reasonable visitation rights to a parent of the deceased parent of the child;
(3) The child has resided in the grandparent's home for at least six months within the twenty-four month period immediately preceding the filing of the petition;
(4) A grandparent is unreasonably denied visitation with the child for a period exceeding ninety days.However, if the natural parents are legally married to each other and are living together with the child, a grandparent may not file for visitation pursuant to this subdivision; or
(5) The child is adopted by a stepparent, another grandparent or other blood relative.
2. The court shall determine if the visitation by the grandparent would be in the child's best interest or if it would endanger the child's physical health or impair the child's emotional development. Visitation may only be ordered when the court finds such visitation to be in the best interests of the child. However, when the parents of the child are legally married to each other and are living together with the child, it shall be a rebuttable presumption that such parents know what is in the best interest of the child. The court may order reasonable conditions or restrictions on grandparent visitation.
3. If the court finds it to be in the best interests of the child, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem for the child.The guardian ad litem shall be an attorney licensed to practice law in Missouri.The guardian ad litem may, for the purpose of determining the question of grandparent visitation rights, participate in the proceedings as if such guardian ad litem were a party. The court shall enter judgment allowing a reasonable fee to the guardian ad litem.
4. A home study, as described by section 452.390, may be ordered by the court to assist in determining the best interests of the child.
5. The court may, in its discretion, consult with the child regarding the child's wishes in determining the best interest of the child.
6. The right of a grandparent to seek or maintain visitation rights pursuant to this section may terminate upon the adoption of the child.
7. The court may award reasonable attorneys fees and expenses to the prevailing party.
How much time will the court be likely to award? Naturally, there is not a specific answer to this question. It may turn out to be as little as a few hours every two or three months; perhaps a little time each month will be granted. Any comparisons to a visitation schedule granted to a noncustodial parent, such as every other weekend, should NOT be made. It is possible that specifics of a particular case will allow for the exception to any law or statute. However, the amount of access will ultimately be left to the individual discretion of the judge issuing the final ruling
Grandparent's rights to custody and visitation are difficult to obtain. Typically, it would require an attorney. The amount of visitation time could be limited and is at the discretion of the Judge hearing the case.
The court will only award custody to a grandparent if the court finds that:
(1) each parent is unfit, unsuitable, or unable to become a custodian; and
(2) grandparent custody is in the best interest of the child. The court must also believe that the grandparent is a suitable custodian and is able to provide an adequate and stable environment for the child.
If you would like to discuss a grandparent's rights to visitationor custody, contact attorney James Piedimonte today.