Published June 2021
When two individuals who have children are going through a divorce or perhaps one spouse has recently passed away, it is understandable that grandparents of those children might panic as a result of the uncertainty of the situation. Will they still be able to see their grandchildren? What if the surviving parent does not allow grandparent visitation? Do they, as grandparents, have any right to enforce such visits as a matter of law?
In Missouri, grandparent visitation rights are governed by statute. Section 452.402, RSMo allows for a grandparent, under certain circumstances, to petition to the court if he or she feels they are being unreasonably denied time with their grandchild. Generally speaking, a grandparent cannot file for visitation if the child’s natural parents are still legally married and live with the child. Instead, this statute applies in cases of divorce, death of a parent, or when the grandchild resided with the grandparents for at least 6 months in the 24-month period immediately preceding filing of the petition.
When a grandparent does decide to petition the court for visitation rights, there are several methods that might be used to determine if such visits are proper. The court might order a home study to observe the child and how he or she interacts with all parties involved. It is also possible, depending on age, for the court to speak directly with the child to determine the child’s wishes regarding the visitation. Additionally, if found to be necessary, a guardian ad litem may be appointed for the child. Ultimately it comes down to what the court decides is in the best interest of the child.
Even with statutory guidance regarding grandparent visitation rights, the law can still be confusing. There are many factors, like adoption, parent relocation, and even the definition of a grandparent, that are not directly addressed by statute. When facing a difficult situation such as this, it is important to talk with an experienced attorney. If you need assistance with a family law matter, contact the family law attorneys at Newman, Comley and Ruth P.C. at (573) 634-2266 or through our webform.