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Grandparent’s Rights in Missouri and Kansas

In most cases, child custody and visitation matters primarily center around a child’s parents, but there are exceptions. In many families, grandparents play a significant role in the child’s life  and in some families even serve as a primary or central caregiver for the children. According to a recent Census Bureau survey, as many as 10% of the children in this country reside with a grandparent. Millions of children are being raised by grandparents. 

Even in situations where grandparents are the primary caretakers to grandchildren, grandparents still have a journey to seek legally recognized or ordered time with their grandchildren. In some situations, if a parent dies or gets divorced, a grandparent’s contact with their grandchildren can be suddenly and unexpectedly changed or even prevented. 

Both Missouri and Kansas have a specific statute and procedure for a grandparent to be able to seek either contact and visitation or custody with their grandchildren if it is in the best interests of the child and/or if they are being restricted or denied that contact.

Does Missouri and Kansas Recognize Grandparent’s Rights?

In short: yes. Grandparents’ rights extend to visitation and custody, but there are some limitations. Both, Missouri and Kansas have very particular laws on this subject and a specific legal procedure in which a grandparent would need to establish visitation or custody rights.

Both the Supreme Court in Kansas and the Missouri Supreme Court have held that the Kansas and Missouri grandparent visitation and custody statutes are constitutional. Although parents have fundamental rights to parent their children as they see fit, there are a variety of exceptions and grandparents, under the limits prescribed, are also entitled to a relationship with grandchildren. Just as with most aspects of child custody determinations in Kansas and Missouri, the court must determine that the custody and/or visitation rights of a grandparent are in the best interests of the child or children involved.

What are the specific limitations or requirements that must be present for a grandparent to be awarded visitation?

There are a variety of considerations, including the involvement and frequency of contact between a grandparent and a grandchild prior to the denial of contact, however, one of the fundamental requirements is that a grandparent has been denied contact for a period of 60 days or more. This threshold requirement ensures that a grandparent has been denied a meaningful length of contact before involving or seeking relief from the court.

Some of the additional requirements or considerations of the court include the following:

  • The child’s parents have filed a petition for divorce or annulment;
  • One parent is deceased and the surviving parent is denying reasonable visitation; or
  • The child has lived with the grandparent for at least six months in the last two years. 
  • A knowledgeable and educated family law attorney can help evaluate the circumstances of your individual situation and determine the appropriate strategy to try to help grandparents maximize their opportunity for succeeding in being awarded visitation time with their grandparents. 
  • The child’s parents have filed a petition for divorce or annulment,
  • One parent is deceased, and the surviving parent is denying reasonable visitation, or
  • The child has lived with the grandparent for at least six months in the last two years.
  • A Kansas or Missouri grandparents’ custody rights attorney can help evaluate your case to determine whether it meets this strict criteria.

How will the court determine if your request for grandparent’s visitation is in the best interests of your grandchildren?

The court has discretion to make this determination. The overriding interest or consideration is always the best interests of a child. Often when the best interests and needs of a child are in dispute, the court appoints a guardian ad litem to represent the child’s interests. This helps the court have an educated and neutral person, a lawyer advocating for the child, about the child’s needs and interests. The court can order other helpful things if the court decides they would aid the court, including mental evaluations, a home study or anything else the court feels is appropriate for the circumstances.

It is ultimately a grandparent’s burden to prove they are qualified, appropriate and fit for custody or visitation rights with the child. 

A close and meaningful relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild is generally beneficial and important to both, the child and the grandparents. Thus, the courts have created a remedy to allow contact in this important role and relationship. If family issues or history prevent or interfere with a grandparent having a consistent relationship, it may be time for you to consult with a family law attorney to determine your grandparent’s rights in Kansas or Missouri.

Call a Kansas or Missouri Grandparents’ Right Attorney Today

Many grandparents find that they lose or are denied contact with a grandchild because of a divorce, death in the family, or animosity or other disagreement or dispute between the child’s parents. State law in both Kansas and Missouri ensures that grandparents have rights to visit and maintain contact with a grandchild even when the parent or parents object. Call Pingel Family Law today to schedule your consultation at (816) 208-8130. Allow our attorneys to fight for your rights as a grandparent. 

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