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Do grandparents have rights when parents divorce?

Divorce does not happen in a vacuum. While it seems that the people most affected by divorce are the parents and children, other family members can also be deeply affected.

Many grandparents wonder, especially in a contested or egregious divorce, if they will still see their grandchildren and have legal rights to see them. The short answer is yes, as we discussed in a 2012 article.

Grandparents' rights are recognized in the state of Missouri. The Missouri Grandparent Statute (Section 452.402.1, enacted on August 28, 2015) states that grandparent visitation may be granted when it is reasonable and that the courts may "issue any necessary orders to enforce the decree."

Grandparents may also file a motion to seek visitation when:

  • Visitation has been denied and they seek to modify the original divorce decree.
  • One parent has died and the surviving parent denies visitation.
  • The child or children lived in the grandparent's home for at least six months in the two years before the divorce.
  • The grandparents have not seen their grandchildren for 90 days or more for no valid reason.

The decision centers on what is best for the child: a court will attempt to determine whether seeing the grandparents is in the child's best interest.

The wording of the statute reflects the court's understanding that divorce is emotional and divorcing parents may not always hold the best interest of the child as their top priority. However, the language also indicates that when the parents are still married they are typically held by the court to have the child's best interest at heart.

Adoption of the child or children is another area that can influence grandparents' visitation rights - these rights "may terminate upon the adoption of the child."

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