Not seeing your grandchildren? The Court may be able to help.
In Missouri, a grandparent who is not able to have visitation with a grandchild can seek assistance one of two ways.
First, the grandparent may file a request in the county where the child resides and ask that a mediator be appointed to assist the parent(s) and the grandparent in reaching an agreement regarding child care and visitation that is in the best interests of the child.
This request does not have to follow any specific format or be drafted by or with the assistance of an attorney.
The mediator does not have the power to make decisions and the content of the mediation is confidential. The role of the mediator is to aid the parties in identifying areas of common interest, reducing misunderstandings, clarifying priorities, exploring areas of common interest and finding points of agreement. Either party may terminate mediation after three sessions. The cost of mediation shall be paid by the grandparents.
Second, under certain circumstances, a grandparent may file a court case seeking visitation rights. Note that the grant of grandparent visitation rights is not mandatory, but within the judge’s discretion. A petition for grandparent rights may be filed when: (1) one or both parents have filed for a dissolution of their marriage or a judgment dissolving the marriage has been granted; (2) one parent of the child is deceased and the surviving parent denies reasonable visitation to the parent of the deceased parent (reasonable visitation is determined on a case-by-case basis and there is no set standard); (3) the child has resided in the grandparent’s home for at least six months within the twenty-four months immediately before the filing of the petition for grandparent rights or (4) a grandparent is unreasonably denied visitation with the child for a period of ninety (90) days – unless the parents are legally married to each other and living together with the child.
If a court case is filed, the court may appoint a Guardian ad Litem (“GAL”) to represent the best interests of the child. The court may order a home study and the court may consult with the child regarding the child’s wishes.
The court may order that the prevailing party’s attorney’s fees be paid in whole or in part by the other party.
The amount of grandparent visitation awarded by the judge varies from case to case, but will not be as much as a typical non-custodial parent (one night per week, every other weekend, six weeks in the summer, time over major holidays).