Grandparents’ Rights

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Grandparents’ Rights

Grandmothers and Grandfathers do have visitation rights in Missouri by law. In certain circumstances, they can be somewhat limited and at other times the rights may be very generous. If you pursue those rights, the court can grant regular visits to you with your grandchildren.

The first step in deciding whether to file a court case would be determining if you are eligible to file a case. At a basic level, you would need to confirm your status as a natural grandparent related by blood if you are not sure. Assuming you are related, then you would need to confirm with your child that they will be denying you time with your grandchildren. If these things are true then you should be looking for more information on filing a case.

Grandparents Rights Lawyer

Once you determine you have a need to file a grandparent visitation case, then you would potentially contact an attorney. Any case involving third party visitation or custody, such as a grandparent case, is legally challenging and it might be a good idea to seek legal advice. There are specific nuances that only attorneys would know, such as whether to file under the grandparent visitation statute or the third party custody statute, or to take a completely different route like a Guardianship or Adoption.

Missouri Grandparent Visitation Law

As you prepare to meet with an attorney, it is important to understand the law in Missouri. Grandparent visitation law is RSMo 452.402. Under this law:

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 to intervene 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 visitation has been denied to them; or
  2. One parent of the child is deceased and the surviving parent denies reasonable visitation to a parent of the deceased parent of the child; or
  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; and
  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.

Third-Party Custody in Missouri

If you read through the Grandparent visitation law and it appears to not apply to your situation or does not exactly fit, then potentially you would want to look into a third-party custody case. A third party custody case has different standards.

Under Missouri Law RSMo 452.375, third parties may pursue custody:

When the court finds that each parent is unfit, unsuitable, or unable to be a custodian, or the welfare of the child requires, and it is in the best interests of the child, then custody, temporary custody or visitation may be awarded to any other person or persons deemed by the court to be suitable and able to provide an adequate and stable environment for the child. Before the court awards custody, temporary custody or visitation to a third person under this subdivision, the court shall make that person a party to the action.

So, if you are dealing with a parent to your grandchild that is unfit or has issues that place the child in danger, you may want to look into third-party custody. You also could file a case under both and leave some flexibility for the Court.

Third-party custody will generally require a more strenuous effort and different circumstances to be awarded, but it allows for more generous amounts of time and typically will award primary custody to the grandparent if granted. Grandparent visitation is more common in the “couple day a month range.”

Guardianship in Missouri

Some grandmothers or grandfathers may look at their situation and think that neither visitation nor third party custody fit. If you currently have your grandchildren living with you full time and plan to do that for the foreseeable future but potentially not forever then Guardianship may be the ticket. A guardianship grants you full custody of the children on a temporary basis. That temporary basis is until a natural parent successfully motions the Court to dissolve the Guardianship or the Court dissolves the Guardianship on its own or you resign the Guardianship.

A Guardianship may be preferable as the process moves a bit quicker than a full custody case, which may be advantageous if you are trying to get a child registered for school or are seeking medical care for the child.

How to File for Grandparent Rights?

Once deciding to proceed with a visitation case, the case can be filed as an independent action or if the parents of the children have an ongoing case then you can ask permission to intervene in their case. The case would generally be filed in the County where the children reside. It would typically be filed with the family court division of the Circuit Court.

What is Reasonable Grandparent Visitation?

As mentioned previously and as you can see under the Missouri Law on this issue, general grandparent visitation can be a bit limited. If there is no neglect or abuse of the grandchildren which would trigger the necessity of a third-party case or guardianship, then you are typically looking at a couple of days a month. This will be very dependent on the Judge as some might favor a little less time than that and some might favor a little more time.

Can My Child Deny Me Access to My Grandchild?

While this might not be the most comforting answer, your children may be able to deny you access. If you look under the fourth factor of the law, if the parents are still together and do not want to provide visits then you do not have a case. If this situation does arise, then it is not uncommon to look at the third party custody statute to see if you can make a case under those factors.

Do I Have to Let My Parents See My Child?

On the flip side, if you are the parents of a child and the relationship with the grandparents is strained then you may not have to provide access to them. If you review the factors under the law and there is not a case for visitation, then there is not much they can do unless your parenting rises to the level of being unfit or neglectful. That being said, always consider what would be in the best interests of your child.

I have Concerns About My Grandchild. What do I do?

If you do have concerns about your grandchild then the first step would probably be calling law enforcement or the Missouri Department of Social Services to investigate and confirm that your concerns are valid. If your concerns are reasonable, then you would start to look at the case types we have discussed to see if any fit your family and circumstances.

What is the difference between Grandparent Custody and Grandparent Visitation?

Custody and visitation are terms that are often confused. Custody is more of an overarching term that describes either physical custody or legal custody. Physical custody is actual time with a child and legal custody is decision making over a child. In the context of a grandparent case, custody would generally be more all-encompassing or refer to primary caretaker status, whereas visitation would refer to a grandparent having some specific visits scheduled each month.

How Much Does it Cost to Get Grandparent Visitation?

A grandparent visitation case is a full custody case just like any other. While it is not as extensive as a divorce case that handles property issues in addition to the custody problems, it would be similar to a standard paternity case in the amount of time and work involved for the attorney.

How Long Will It Take to Establish Grandparent Rights?

The length of any custody or visitation cases depends on a number of factors, including the parties involved, the Judge you are assigned to, and the County the case is located in. For example, in St. Louis County, it would not be uncommon for a contested grandparent visitation case to last for six to nine months. All family law cases in Missouri aim to be resolved within one year from filing per the Missouri Supreme Court.

Preserving Your Role in the Lives of Your Grandchildren

It is critical to hire an attorney to fight for more visitation time. Grandparent visitation cases can be challenging. A thorough case must be presented to the judge to prove that your request is in the best interest of your grandchildren.

Helping You Gain Access to Your Family

Our firm is experienced in grandparent visitation cases and we are eager to discuss your legal problems with you.

Are you being denied visitation with your grandchildren? Rely on St. Louis grandparent visitation lawyer Stephen Bardol to assist you in your fight for visitation.