Grandparents Visitation and Custody Rights
Most people think of a divorce and the related visitation and custody rights of each parent. However, grandparents may have a strong role with the children and can have their own rights too.
All about Grandparents Rights in Missouri
Many times both parents must work in order to afford the necessities of life. This can dictate that someone needs to watch their children, especially if the rising costs of daycare make it necessary for the grandparents to be the primary caretaker of the children. In other scenarios, the children and grandchildren will also live with the grandparents so that the grandparents play a large role in the upbringing of the children.
The Best Interests of the Child
The major concern of granting visitation and custody in a divorce case is always meeting the best interests of the child. No matter if it is a parent or grandparents that are seeking visitation and custody, the same items are considered to find the best situation possible for a child of divorce.
Many factors are considered in the best interest of a child such as the physical and emotional health of the child as well as the welfare of the child. If a child lived with grandparents or the grandparents have been the primary caretakers, it could do the child emotional harm to remove them from the child’s life. The capabilities of the parents and/or grandparents to meet the child’s needs are also determined. There must be enough resources to make certain the child can have the basic needs in life. The wishes of the parents and grandparents are always taken into consideration as well as the child’s wishes–if they are old enough to make decisions for themselves. The length of the relationship between the child and grandparents or parents is examined as well as any evidence of abuse, neglect or substance abuse for the parents or grandparents. The child’s ability to adjust to a new community, school or home is considered as well as the distance between the child and the parents or grandparents and the ability of the parents or grandparents to provide contact, love and affection for a child.
Abusive Biological Parent
If a grandparent believes that the grandchildren are in an abusive or neglectful environment, they may file a petition for a child protective hearing. If dangers exist to the child, the child protective services of Missouri can enforce an emergency removal of the child and place them in protective custody. Then a protective proceeding is usually in order, followed by a number of court hearings to determine if the allegations are true. Finally, a permanency hearing is set to determine and finalize the permanent placement and security of the child.
If a grandparent can show that a biological parent is abusive, incompetent or unfit for visitation or custody, the courts are far more willing to grant rights to the grandparents. This can be proved to the court through any legal proceedings in the past or arrest records that show the parent is abusive in some manner. A parent that leaves a child alone for any time is basically abandonment and that is also considered when trying to secure grandparents rights. During the divorce proceedings, a court can order temporary custody to grandparents until the proceedings are finished. This will give the grandparents the best manner in which to seek permanent custody of the child.
The State of Missouri’s Grandparents Rights
The state of Missouri is a lenient state when it comes to grandparent’s rights and visitation. It has a permissive visitation law to allow grandparents or third party custody. This can be done when the parents of a child are filing for divorce. The grandparents can file a motion to intervene and request reasonable visitation rights. If a divorce decree is already in place by a court, and the grandparents were denied visitation rights, they can file to modify the decree.
A grandparent can also ask for reasonable visitation under the Missouri family laws if a parent of the child is deceased and the surviving parent denies the decedent’s parents reasonable visitation rights.
A grandparent can also request reasonable visitation rights if the child lived with them for at least six months within the two years of the parents filing a petition for divorce.
If a grandparent has been denied visitation with the child for at least 90 days, they may request reasonable visitation rights.
In all of the above cases, grandparents cannot petition for visitation if the parents of the child are legally married together and they continue to reside together.
The court will decide a visitation schedule that is in the best interest of the child, which can include some weekends and holidays, just as parental rights do when parents divorce, visitation and custody are arranged.
Guardian Ad Litem
In some cases, 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 the state of Missouri. A guardian ad litem can participate in the legal proceedings and can be heard by the court to make certain that the best interests of the child are met.
Court Considerations vs. Mediation
It is usually best to try to resolve rights for grandparents as amicably as possible instead of going straight to the courts. If a parent is refusing access will be amenable to having the dispute mediated by a qualified person, then that is a much simpler process for all involved. Mediation is also a much less expensive alternative compared to court costs and attorney costs. However, as a last resort, if the parent and grandparents can’t resolve the situation of divorce, custody and visitation rights for grandparents, then you should go to court and let the court decide the fate of the child.
Many years ago, all family members had a role in raising a child and were all engaged in the health and upbringing. Today it is less common, but has been shown that it is best for a child to learn life lessons from grandparents in a stable and safe environment. Don’t give up your grandparents rights without first seeking legal help from an experienced family and divorce attorney in St. Louis, Missouri. Your grandchildren need you to be in their lives.