What Visitation Rights do Grandparents Have?

Grandparents often hold a special and significant place in the lives of their grandchildren as a symbol of love, support, and, as many of us know, discipline. Grandparents also often step into the role of a parent for a child for any number of reasons. This special relationship is highly respected in Mississippi, and the laws relating to the visitation rights of grandparents are no exception. Courts in Mississippi understand the dynamic at play with grandparents and their grandchildren, and if the preservation of that relationship is in the child’s best interest, then that relationship should not be disturbed.

Mississippi law allows a grandparent to petition for visitation rights after the death or termination of parental rights of one of the minor child’s parents. A grandparent may also do so for other reasons, and the court will award those rights if the grandparent has shown a viable relationship with the minor child, that a parent has unreasonably denied the visitation, and that the grandparent’s visitation rights are in the best interests of the child.
Obviously, the phrase “viable relationship” is quite vague, and the statute goes on to define that as a level of financial support of the minor child by the grandparent for more than 6 months, the grandparent having had frequent visitation, including overnight, for at least a year, or the grandparents caring for the minor child for a significant period with the parent absent from the home (including military duty or incarceration).

The wording of the statute gives grandparents many different ways to prove a viable relationship worthy of having visitation rights awarded. Previous overnight visitation is one of the more powerful showings of a viable relationship, as a grandparent being allowed to keep a child overnight demonstrates a large amount of trust and respect between the parent and grandparent. One caveat that grandparents need to be aware of regarding overnight visitation is the presence of the word “including.” A strict reading of this makes it seem as though a grandparent who has not had overnight visitation has no claim, like if the grandparent lives next door to the child and has had frequent visitation, but never overnight. A court’s interpretation and an attorney’s argument of the Legislature’s intent behind this phrasing may both be the difference in a case like this.

Still, a viable relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild can be a tough thing to show in a court of law, as those relationships often go beyond hard proof. Testimony of the grandchild may be the key factor in many of these cases, and many grandchildren are likely too young to have their testimony hold much weight in court. These are just a few of the gray areas that these cases can find themselves in. While cases involving the visitation rights of grandparents can be stressful, expensive and time-consuming, the Law Office of Matthew S. Poole is extremely well-equipped to handle your case with professionalism and personal service. If you believe your visitation rights as a grandparent are not being properly respected and would like to fight for those rights, call our office at 601-573-7429 to schedule a consultation.

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