Most are familiar with the statutory and constitutional dimensions present in a parent’s rights to rear his or her child. However, in certain circumstances, a Missouri Court is permitted to enter an order allowing a grandparent reasonable visitation rights. RSMo 452.402 articulates when such an order is appropriate:
(1) The parents of the child have filed for a dissolution of their marriage. A grandparent shall have the right to intervene in any dissolution action solely on the issue of visitation rights. Grandparents shall also have the right to file a motion to modify the original decree of dissolution to seek visitation rights when visitation has been denied to them; or
(2) One parent of the child is deceased and the surviving parent denies reasonable visitation to a parent of the deceased parent of the child; or
(3) The child has resided in the grandparent’s home for at least six months within the twenty-four month period immediately preceding the filing of the petition; and
(4) A grandparent is unreasonably denied visitation with the child for a period exceeding ninety days. However, if the natural parents are legally married to each other and are living together with the child, a grandparent may not file for visitation pursuant to this subdivision.
As with all laws pertaining to children, a Court will usually only deny grandparent visitation rights when it is not in the best interests of the child(ren). If harm — physical or emotional — could come to the child(ren) from visitation, then a Court will not allow it. Supervised visitation is also a possibility.
Although grandparent rights are not as strong as parental rights, they are firmly entrenched in Missouri law; it’s just that grandparents have to work a little harder to establish those rights.