Grandparents often face emotional struggles when their grandchildren become subject to a divorce order. While handling their child’s divorce may be difficult in and of itself, the grandparent may wonder about their future relationship with their grandchild. If you are a grandparent and your grandchild’s parents are going through a divorce, you may be curious about your rights when it comes to spending time with your grandchild following the finalization of their parents’ divorce.

What Is Grandparent Visitation Law?

Since the 1970s, every state in the United States has enacted some type of grandparent visitation law. These laws ensure grandparents will not be held accountable for their children’s actions during divorce cases and will retain the right to spend time with their grandkids following divorce. Grandparent visitation laws allow grandparents to seek visitation time with their grandchildren, and every state has a unique process of petitioning for visitation, who may seek visitation, and under what conditions visitation must occur.

A Springfield, MO family law attorney is a fantastic resource for any grandparent who wants to learn more about their legal rights when it comes to spending time with their grandchildren. Recent legislative changes place most control over visitation arrangements in the hands of custodial parents. It may be necessary for the grandparents seeking visitation to formally negotiate with their child’s ex-spouse, and having reliable legal counsel to help with this process is a tremendous asset.

In Missouri, the state’s grandparent visitation law states that grandparents may petition custodial parents for visitation time that does not pose a significant burden on the custodial parents. This right extends solely to biological grandparents. It is only permissible when the grandchild’s parents are legally married and in the process of divorcing, when the surviving parent denies visitation after the other parent’s death, or if the grandchild’s parents are unmarried and the grandparent has been denied visitation for 90 days.

Landmark Rulings in Grandparent Visitation Law

It wasn’t until the 1970s in the US that grandparent visitation became a widespread legal issue. Once the divorce rate began to climb, and more grandparents were left uncertain about their future relationships with their grandkids, state legislatures began enacting grandparent visitation laws. Over time, several cases have reshaped these laws and aimed to preserve the best interests of the children affected by them.

In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled on Troxel et vir. v. Granville, a case that ended with priority consideration extending to parents’ wishes in visitation disputes. However, this case unfolded over many years, and adjustments have been made on a case-by-case basis in different states. While this ruling has impacted some grandparents’ abilities to obtain court-approved visitation time, most family court judges simply address grandparent visitation disputes on a case-by-case basis.

Many state courts uphold that grandparent visitation must not impose any undue or extraordinary burden on the grandchild’s custodial parent. For example, if the grandparents are unable to travel for visitation, the court would likely find it unreasonable to impose significant travel costs on the custodial parent to ensure grandparent visitation.

Tips for Ensuring Grandparent Visitation

Being a grandparent involved in a divorce can be incredibly stressful. If you are concerned about losing the ability to spend time with your grandchildren following their parents’ divorce, it’s essential to know a few best practices to increase your chances of securing grandparent visitation time:

  • Work with an attorney. Whenever you face any kind of family law issue such as a grandparent visitation dispute, reliable legal counsel is your most valuable asset. An experienced Springfield, MO family law attorney can analyze your specific case and provide you with the most helpful advice.
  • Aim for respectful correspondence with your grandchildren’s parents. Whatever happened between your child and their spouse that led to the breakdown of their marriage, it’s important to remember that that issue lies between them, and you should not “take sides” or stray from focusing on your rights as a grandparent.
  • Strive for mediation whenever possible. Your child and their spouse may be negotiating the terms of their divorce in mediation, and you should ask to participate when it comes to visitation of your grandchildren. Having a visitation arrangement in writing can help you ensure time with your grandchildren and prevent future disputes.
  • Build a case if you are wrongfully denied visitation. If you believe that your grandchild’s custodial parent has knowingly withheld visitation time from you for no good reason, you may need to prove that visitation time with our grandchild is in the child’s best interests. An attorney can help you prove that the loss of your visitation time would be damaging for the child and that preserving your existing relationship is viable and important for the child.

While these tips may help you secure the grandparent visitation rights you want to have, the decision may come down to the custodial parent or both parents. You will need to prove that it is in the best interests of your grandchildren to have visitation time with you. One of the best ways to have a good relationship with your grandchildren is to have a good relationship with your child and their spouse, even after a divorce.

How Can an Attorney Help?

Grandparent visitation may seem like an issue that should resolve itself naturally, but unfortunately, this is not always the case. Some parents may withhold grandparent visitation out of spite. Others may relocate following a divorce and leave their ex-spouse’s parents unable to visit with their grandchildren as often. Hiring an experienced Springfield, MO family law attorney is a great option for any grandparent who is unsure of their legal rights under Missouri’s grandparent visitation law.

The right attorney can not only advise a client of their grandparent visitation rights but also help them complete the legal motions that will ensure consistent access to their grandchildren on a reasonable basis. If you have been denied your grandparent visitation rights or expect your child to divorce their spouse soon, discuss your options and future visitation rights with a Springfield, MO family law attorney.