Grandparents frequently face limited access to grandchildren when their children get divorced. The law in Missouri encourages grandparents to seek custody or visitation rights when circumstances warrant it. Learn More.
Courts make decisions regarding custody and visitation based on the best interests of the child. Judges start with a presumption that parents act in their children’s best interests.
Grandparents may seek visitation rights if they feel that the relationship between their children and grandchildren is being negatively affected. It should be noted that the court always considers what is in a child’s best interests and this means that the biological parents will almost always receive custody unless there is evidence of abuse or other serious concerns.
A Judge will review the situation to determine whether or not grandparents should be granted visitation rights. The court will look at factors such as the wishes of the parents, the interaction between the child and other relatives, daily routines, and schedules, as well as any issues that may have been raised in the case.
The Court will also consider the child’s age and maturity, as well as if there is evidence of abuse. It is important that any grandparents seeking visitation have quality legal representation to help them develop a strong argument. A home study may be required as part of the process to ensure that the grandparents are safe and suitable for visitation with the child.
Grandparents have the statutory right to intervene in a divorce case solely on the issue of visitation with small children. Grandparents can also sue to modify a previous custody order. If a court finds that one of the following prerequisites is met then they must grant a petition for visitation rights:
A judge will weigh many factors in determining whether or not a child should spend time with his/her grandparents, including the wishes of both the parents and the grandchildren. They will also consider the history of the family, each party’s relationship with the child and if there is any history of abuse or neglect.
However, it is very rare for a judge to award custody of a child to someone other than the natural parent(s). There must be some extraordinary circumstance that would make this necessary. It must be shown that the natural parents are unfit, unsuitable, unwilling or unable to be custodians of the child.
Grandparents sometimes seek custody or visitation rights, but these issues are highly specific to state law and courts generally believe that parents know best what is in their children’s best interests. If grandparents wish to petition for visitation or custody, they must have a strong legal basis and demonstrate that it is in the child’s best interests for them to spend time with the grandchild.
A court may award visitation rights to grandparents over the objection of a parent in extraordinary circumstances such as:
Grandparents do have limited rights in the state of Missouri. Generally, they can only seek visitation with their grandchildren after the parents have divorced. The courts will look at the best interests of the child when ruling on these cases.
The burden is on the grandparents to prove that the proposed visits will serve the children’s best interests. However, a parent or other custodian of the child may object to the request for visitation. Often, the reasons are that the grandparents do not know the child as well as a current custodian or that the child’s welfare is at risk.
In some cases, a court may award custody to a person other than the child’s natural parents if it finds some extraordinary circumstance exists. Typically, this is due to the child being at risk of harm because of physical or emotional abuse by the child?s parents, a drug addiction problem or incarceration of the parents.