Archive for the ‘Mississippi Child Visitation Articles’ Category

Mississippi Divorce Attorney Explains Grandparent Visitation in Mississippi

Monday, April 21st, 2014

It is important for children to have meaningful relationships with adults who are not their mother and father. Many adults have fond memories of the times that they shared with one or more of their grandparents. From helping Grandma in the kitchen as she prepared delicious meals and treats, to going fishing with Grandpa and coming home with a couple of fish and a lot of great stories, the memories that our grandparents gave us serve as reminders of the time and attention that they devoted to helping us learn and grow.

While not all children have grandparents who are actively involved in their lives, those who do form close connections with them. The relationship between a child and their grandparent deserves respect, and the State of Mississippi recognizes that. In Mississippi, the visitation rights of grandparents are set forth in MCA 93-16-3. This statute is designed to ensure that grandparents who have close relationships with their grandchildren can continue to visit with them regularly in the event that one or both of the children’s parents die, the children’s parents divorce, the rights of one or both parents are terminated, or even if the relationship between the children’s parents and their grandparents has deteriorated.

Mississippi’s grandparent visitation statute does not apply to all grandparents. Since the grandparent visitation statute is designed to protect the relationship between grandparent and grandchild, it makes sense that visitation is awarded only when it is in the best interest of the child. In order to be granted visitation, a grandparent must show that they have a viable relationship with the grandchild or grandchildren that they seek to visit. In Mississippi, a viable relationship can take one of two forms. The first type of viable relationship is when a grandparent supports a grandchild financially, either in full or in part, for at least six months prior to petitioning the court for visitation. The second form of viable relationship is where the grandparent has visited the child frequently for at least a year prior to petitioning the court for visitation.

When a grandparent seeks visitation, the court analyzes ten different factors while making its decision on whether to award visitation, and how much visitation to award. The factors which the court considers are set forth in Martin v. Coop, 693 So.2d 912, 913 (Miss. 1997). Courts consider the ages of both the grandchild or grandchildren and the grandparents, the physical and mental health of the grandparents, the distance between the home of the child and the home of the grandparents, any employment responsibilities of the grandparents, the moral fitness of the grandparents, the suitability of the grandparents’ home for visits, the bond between grandparent and grandchild, whether a grant of visitation is likely to cause any disruption in the child’s life, and whether the grandparents are likely to interfere with the parenting choices and disciplinary decisions that are made by the children’s parents.

If you are a grandparent who is in a situation where you are unable to see your grandchildren because of the death of one of their parents, a divorce, a termination of parental rights, or a falling out with one of their parents, a Mississippi Family Law Attorney may be able to assist you in getting the visitation that you and your grandchildren want. Matthew S. Poole is an experienced Mississippi Divorce Attorney who is known for providing caring and compassionate legal counsel. To find out how Matthew can help you, please call our office today, at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a free consultation.

Beyond Babysitting: When Grandparent’s Seek Visitation of Grandchildren in Mississippi

Monday, September 30th, 2013

With increasing frequency, many grandparents today have taken to petitioning the courts for visitation of their grandchild or grandchildren.  An example of one such case arose out of neighboring Alabama.  In ERG v. EHG, 73 So.3d 614 (Ala. Civ. App. 2010), the grandparents of two young girls petitioned the court for visitation of their grandchildren after their parents cut off ties with them.  The grandparents had maintained a close relationship with the grandchildren until a business dispute caused the girl’s parents, who are married and live together with their children, to terminate further relations with the grandparents.  The court faced the question of whether the parents in this instance had the parental right to deny the grandparents the opportunity to visit with their children.  The district court sided with the grandparents and awarded generous visitation.  The parents appealed, and the decision of the trial court was reversed.

The case went all the way to the Alabama Supreme Court—where the court not only denied visitation to the grandparents but struck down Alabama’s entire Grandparents Visitation Act, finding that a parent’s right to raise their children may not be undercut by a judge unless the parents are deemed unfit.  The grandparents filed a Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping the Court would be willing to revisit the issue of grandparent’s rights since its last ruling over 10 years ago.  The Supreme Court, however, declined to hear the case.

Currently, all 50 states have some form of grandparent’s visitation laws.  Among them, 18 states require some sort of showing that the parents of the grandchildren are unfit in order for the grandparents to be granted visitation and/or custody.  19 states take a more flexible approach, holding that there is a presumption in favor of the parent’s decision, but if the grandparents can show it is in their grandchildren’s best interests that they be awarded visitation, the court will consider doing so.

In Mississippi, grandparents can be awarded visitation under a limited set of circumstances.  The first instance is where the grandparent’s child has not been awarded custody or the grandparent’s child has had his/her parental rights terminated.  In this instance, the grandparent may have a viable case for visitation.  Secondly, a grandparent may receive visitation of a grandchild in Mississippi if their child is deceased.  If both parents are alive and married and/or share joint custody, a grandparent may still be able to seek visitation.  The grandparent would have to prove they had a viable relationship with the grandchild and visitation would be in the grandchild’s best interest.  To establish the existence of a viable relationship, the grandparent must show they supported the grandchild in whole or in part for at least six months and they had frequent visits with the child, including overnight visits for at least one year.

In sum, it is possible for grandparents to be awarded visitation of their grandchild or grandchildren, but it will require a skilled family law attorney and extensive evidence in the grandparent’s favor.  While Mississippi courts, like all courts, favors the decision of the parents as to their child’s upbringing, there have been several instances in which Mississippi courts have been inclined to order grandparent’s visitation.  These courts ultimately look to what is in the best interests of the child.

If you are a grandparent who had a previously strong relationship with your grandchild and are now being denied visitation, Matthew S. Poole can help.  Matthew has extensive knowledge of the most current grandparent’s rights laws and will fight for you to obtain the precious time with your grandchildren that you so desire.  Call Matthew today at (601) 573-7429 to obtain a case evaluation.

Circumstances Where Grandparent Can Be Granted Custody/Visitation in Mississippi

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

First of all let’s make clear that natural parents do have a presumptive right to have custody of their child.  This is because the child’s best interest is presumed to be best served by being placed with natural parents.  Custody can only be granted to a third party with clear and convincing evidence that the natural parent has either abandoned the child, is unfit to have custody, or engages in conduct which is so immoral as to be detrimental to the child’s best interests.  However, in Mississippi the Supreme Court has reversed an award of custody to grandparents based on a chancellor’s finding that the natural father was unprepared to take custody as opposed to unfit to have custody of his children.  In other words, there is a very high standard applied to these cases, although grandparents could potentially have custody of a child that is their biological grandchild, the bar is set fairly high as it should be.  For instance, in one case the court denied a custody award to grandparents who made a claim that the mother abandoned the child. The mother left the child for several years in the care of the grandparents, however; she still sent gifts and maintained contact, even visiting with the child.  She never stated that she was going to permanently give custody to the grandparents see Payne vs. Payne (Mississippi Supreme Court 1952).

Visitation rights also pose a difficult set of circumstances for most grandparents because although some states do permit grandparent visitation by statute, many including Mississippi rely also on common law principles.  Mississippi will only permit a court to order a visitation of grandparents under a showing of either the custody is awarded to a parent and a parent dies, or a parent’s rights are terminated.  The parents of the non-custodial dead or terminated parent may obtain visitation rights.  Alternatively, if the grandparent had a viable relationship with the child, (which means they supported the child in whole or part for at least six months, had frequent visitation including overnight visitation for at least a year, and that the visitation order is in the best interest of the minor child) may also obtain rights to visit their grandchild.  One case that gives grandparents some hope for visitation of their grandchildren under exigent circumstances is Galloway vs. Galloway (Mississippi Supreme Court 1996).  In this instance the lower court ordered the grandparent be permitted visitation on every other weekend and on several holidays. The court of appeals did express concern over the extent of the visitation but did uphold the order because the visitation appeared to be in lieu of visitation by the father, who could not exercise it because of his military service.

It is also clear that grandparents do have rights to visit under certain circumstances once  facts are shown that meet the threshold for the court’s approval, however; natural grandparents don’t have a right to visit grandchildren as comprehensive as the rights of natural parents –see Martin vs. Coop (Mississippi Supreme Court 1997).  In summation, grandparents do have some hope for gaining visitation rights of their grandchildren in disputed custody matters however, it is not as comprehensive as that of a natural parent.  Anything the grandparent can do to further the relationship between themselves and the child including exercising visitation at any time possible and supporting the child will be viewed in the best light if the case comes in front of a judge who has to make a determination in the furtherance of a child’s best interests.  Remember the polestar consideration is the best interest of the minor child. (See Albright vs Albright which is located on our website mspoole.com).  Also please let it be clear that even though the bar is set high, it doesn’t mean that grandparents should give up on having a viable relationship with their grandchild.  There is hope!  It does take a significant showing of fact and this can be done particularly for those who have made extensive efforts to have a relationship with their grandchild or for those people whose son or daughter is the biological parent who is unavailable to exercise visitation and or custody.