Elder law is a complex and diverse area dealing with the rights of some of the most vulnerable members of society. Many families are caught at the intersection of principles related to family law and elder law when couples go through divorce. Grandparents may worry that they will not be able to visit their grandchildren while divorce proceedings are ongoing. If you have been denied the right to visit your grandchildren, then you may need to speak to a family lawyer in Columbia, Missouri.
Grandparents and Visitation Rights
In the State of Missouri, courts may grant grandparents the right to visit a minor child. Under Missouri Rev. Stat. § 452.402, the following factors are relevant to a court’s determination regarding grandparents’ rights to visitation:
- If a minor child has lived with a grandparent for six months during the two-year period before filing a petition for visitation was denied to the grandparents for at least ninety days
- One of the child’s parents has died and the grandparents were denied visitation
- If visitation rights have been denied to grandparents after a divorce has been granted
- If the parents have initiated divorce proceedings
Additional factors may be relevant depending on the facts and circumstances of an individual case.
The Best Interests of the Child Standard
Courts in Missouri will apply the best interests of the child standard when determining whether or not to grant visitation rights. A judge will consider whether granting visitation rights will endanger the child mentally, emotionally, or physically. The following elements are relevant to the best interests of the child standard used by the court:
- A judge may demand a home study be performed to help the judge in making a decision in accordance with the best interests of the child
- In cases involving divorce, a judge may consider where the grandparents reside and examine the nature of their relationship with the minor child
- The minor child may be asked to speak with the judge regarding his or her relationship with the grandparents
- In cases involving domestic violence, a judge will often assess the physical, emotional, and mental health of the grandparents and parents of the minor child
- The relationships the minor child maintains with other family members
- Any parenting plan presented to the judge for consideration when the judge considers granting the grandparents’ visitation rights
The Appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem
A guardian ad litem is typically a lawyer who represents a minor child in a legal case. Sometimes a family member may be appointed a guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem may interview parents, grandparents, and witnesses to make findings regarding the minor child’s best interests. Speaking to a knowledgeable Missouri family law attorney can help you understand more details about these issues.
Restrictions and Conditions Regarding Grandparents Visitation Rights
A court might order restrictions and conditions on grandparents visitation rights. Some of the typical conditions include the time, place, and manner of the visitation. Past conflict such as parental interference may also be relevant to a court’s determination regarding restrictions and conditions on visitation rights.