Published in Family Law on June 5, 2017
Many grandparents want to know what legal rights that they have to see their grandchildren. In many families, these questions come up in a divorce, the separation of unmarried couple or the death of one of the parents of the grandchild. Missouri law does provide some protection for a grandparent in these situations. Missouri provides for four instances when a grandparent can seek grandparent rights
- When the parents having a pending divorce or are already divorced-If the parents have a pending divorce, the grandparents can file a motion to intervene to seek grandparent rights. If the parties are already divorced, the grandparent can file a motion to modify;
- When one of the parents of the child is deceased and the remaining parent has unreasonably denied visitation to a parent of the deceased parent of the child;
- The child has resided in the home of the grandparent for at least six months within the twenty-four months preceding the filing of the petition;
- A grandparent is unreasonably been denied visitation with child for a period exceeding 90 days. However, if the natural parents are legally married to each other and living together with the child, a grandparent may not file for visitation citing this as a reason.
Even if one of the above conditions exists, grandparent visitation will only be awarded if it is in the grandchild’s best interest. There are some situations when a grandparent is not entitled to visitation. Grandparents are not entitled to visitation if it would endanger the child’s physical health or impair the child’s emotional development. The right to maintain an action for grandparent rights may also terminate if the child is adopted.
In order to determine the best interest of the child, a court has several tools it can use. First, the court can appoint a Guardian ad Litem if it is in the child’s best interest. Second, the court may order a home study. Third, in its discretion, the court may consult with the child about the child’s wishes as to grandparent visitation.
The court is also bound one evidentiary presumption in determining whether the grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interest. If the parents are legally married and living together with the child, there is a presumption that the parents know what is in the child’s best interest. However, this is a rebuttable presumption. The grandparent can introduce evidence that contact between the grandparent and child is in the grandchild’s best interest.