Jonathan Marks, STL Moms: What are grandparents’ rights in a divorce?

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Margie:  Well if you’re a grandparent with children who are going through a divorce, you may have concerns about just how you’re going to get involved with your grandchildren and if that’s going to be stopped because of the divorce. Family law attorney Jonathan Marks with The Marks Law Firm is here this morning to talk a little bit more about grandparents rights. Good morning to you.

JM:  Good morning Margie.

Margie:  Ya so it used to be that grandparents had no recourse but now Missouri actually has a specific statute for grandparents right?

JM:  They do, and you know, it comes in different subsets of how someone has to qualify as a grandparent to actually enter into a preceding to get visitation rights with their grandchildren.

Margie:  So what are some of those requirements?

JM:  So the first one, you normally look at it as whether or not there is a divorce pending or if a divorce has actually been completed. So assuming that there is one of those two situations and a grandparent believes they’ve been denied some of form of what they call reasonable visitation rights with their grandchild, they would have the right to intervene, petition to a court and request that they receive some form of a visitation schedule with their grandchild.

Margie:  Another requirement would be when the grandparent’s child or the parent dies.

JM:  Correct. So assuming that the parent or the grandparent, basically the parent of the deceased parent is being denied visitation rights by the surviving parent, there too have the ability to petition a court and request some form of a visitation schedule. If again, they’ve been denied what the court considers to be reasonable visitation, which in essence means they have to be denied a visit with the child, the grandchild, within a period of 90 days or more.

Margie:  Okay, then the third one is if the child resided with the grandparent for at least six months during the preceding two years and the parents refuse visitation for longer than three months.

JM:  Correct.

Margie:  Ya.

JM:  So, yea it’s very complicated, but assuming that, you know, you had a situation, where the child was placed with the grandparent, they were living there for a period of six months or more and then for some reason, the natural child of the grandparents decides to move out of the home and take the grandchild with them, then at that point in time the grandparent would have a right to intervene. Either requesting some form of a visitation schedule or even trying to get custody of that child if they believe it wasn’t in the best interest of their grandchild to be with their natural child.

Margie:  Okay. Any caveat to those three requirements?

JM:  Well, in essence, what people seem to forget is if two parents are actually married and they’re living together with the child and they determine as a family unit that they’re going to subsequently deny grandparent visitation, there’s nothing the grandparent has the ability to do. So, unless you fall into one of those three categories, and you really have the ability to go in and state that you qualify and there’s been more of a 90 day visitation denial, you’re not going to be able to petition the court for assistance.

Margie:  Ya, there are other circumstances though, Jonathan, where you don’t meet those requirements but grandparents still get involved through the courts.

JM:  Correct. Usually those are unfortunate circumstances where the juvenile court has intervened and found there is some form of a parent being unfit um or there’s a drug case, or something involving where the child has to be removed from that parent’s household. And at that point in time, through initially starting through family services through the State of Missouri, they’re going to remove the child from the household, the juvenile court is going to become involved and they’re going to look to try to do a family placement as a long-term solution so that that child can remain with some form of a family member as opposed to going into foster care.

Margie:  Alright, very good. Some good advice for us this morning. Thank you so much family law attorney Jonathan Marks. We appreciate it.

JM:  Thank you.

Margie:  For more information on the Marks Law Firm, just go to the STL Moms tab. Seth and Lisa….

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