Kansas and Missouri Grandparent Visitation
Grandparent visitation is an area of family law which is wrought with misconceptions and sometimes unreasonable expectations. Fairbanks DeMarco provides grandparent visitation clients with the information, skill and expertise necessary to help you maintain a significant relationship with your grandchildren. Although no family law attorney can win a grandparent “custody” of their grandchildren with a grandparent visitation action, a knowledgeable grandparents rights’ attorney can help you maximize your time with your grandchildren by ensuring consistent and meaningful contact. As a grandparent, your rights flow from the rights of your child, the child’s parent. For example, if your child allows you to see or spend time with the child during his or her parenting time, you typically will not have a cause of action for grandparent visitation. Rather, a grandparent asserts their visitation rights when both parents of the child are in some way denying you access to the child. This situation can come in many different forms and for many different reasons.
They key is first determining whether a grandparent has a cause of action. All too often, a grandparent will spend time and money on filing an action only to find he or she lacked standing to bring the claim. Once you know where your rights begin and end, you’ll be able to plot the best possible course to consistent and meaningful contact. Many grandparents are surprised to find out that they could likely be ordered to pay the attorney’s fees of the parties defending against their grandparent visitation action. Unfortunately, many grandparents find this out after it’s too late and the Court has already ordered them to pay. You want an attorney with experience to help you identify issues, set proper expectations while helping you to reduce your risk or exposure financially. An inexperienced attorney could cost you time and money. Fairbanks DeMarco is ready to listen to your story and explain the grandparents’ rights practice.
The grandparent visitation statutes in Kansas are KSA 23-3301 – 23-3304. In Kansas, a grandparent may bring an action against an unmarried parent for visitation by intervening in an already established divorce or custody matter or by filing an independent action in the County in which the child resides.
Kansas Courts use a two-step process to analyze a request for grandparent visitation.Step 1 – Does the grandparent have a substantial relationship with the child? Step 2 – If a substantial relationship exists, is it in the best interests of the child for that relationship to continue via court ordered grandparent visitation?
If the answer to both questions is yes, then the grandparent has met his or her burden in establishing a prima facie case for grandparent visitation. Then, it’s up to the court to determine what visitation plan best serves the best interests of the child. This is an often-litigated issue.
The statutes in Kansas as well as the higher courts in Kansas tell us that a fit parent’s wishes with respect to visitation should be given greater weight than the request of the grandparent. This weight however is not absolute. For example, a parent who opposes grandparent visitation cannot simply propose “no visitation” and then rely on their position as a fit parent to carry the day. In fact, our higher courts have opined that proposed grandparent visitation plans which allow grandparent visitation only at the ad hoc discretion of the parent are plans which effectively call for no visitation at all. Those types of plan are seen as unreasonable. The key is whether the proposed plan is reasonable when considering the totality of the facts and circumstances.
For example, it would unreasonable for a parent to propose a visitation plan consisting of a couple hours every other month if the grandparent consistently has the children overnight three to four nights per month or have consistent weekly contact with the kids, pick them up from school or are greatly involved in the child’s routine. That said, grandparent visitation will never be as substantial as court ordered parenting time for a legal parent. Even in situations where grandparents are heavily involved it is not uncommon for the Court to order some type of monthly contact consisting of one weekend or one overnight per month.
In Missouri, the grandparent visitation statute is RSMo 452.402. This statute clearly lays out the circumstances necessary for there to be a valid claim for grandparent visitation. The most common is whether the child has resided in the grandparent’s home for at least six months within the twenty-four month period immediately preceding the filing of the petition, and the grandparent has been unreasonably denied visitation with the child for a period exceeding ninety (90) days. Like Kansas grandparents, a Missouri grandparent can either intervene in a divorce or custody action to request visitation or file an independent action for grandparent visitation. Missouri grandparents are denied the ability to request visitation through the circuit court if the child’s parents are legally married and currently living together with the child or children.
Like many family law areas, the grandparent visitation body of law is ever-changing and wrought with intricacies. Call the team at Fairbanks DeMarco to learn more about your grandparent visitation case.
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