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Melissa A. Featherston

Grandparents' rights: do they exist for Missouri residents?

Grandparents' rights are a complicated issue during a divorce in any state, including in Missouri. Many grandparents wish to apply for custody, because of certain circumstances, or at least have visitation rights to their grandchildren. Because most states do not have legally recognized grandparents' rights, the results of these cases can dramatically vary from one instance to the next.

In some particular cases, grandparents apply for custody out of concern for the health and safety of the grandchildren. However, parents' rights are almost always given priority and many grandparents may not know what steps to take next. In some cases, grandparents have to instigate a legal proceeding to simply have access to their grandchildren after the parents divorce. Missouri grandparents may be wondering how and if they will see their grandchildren and if they have any legal options.

There are millions of grandparents raising grandchildren because of various familial circumstances. However, when these cases are disputed, grandparents are often shocked to learn that they have very few legal rights regarding grandchildren. For example, grandparents have no legal rights to actual case files of a custody or abuse case. A grandparent can file for custody, but should be prepared to have adequate assistance for the complicated legal battle that lies ahead.

As other states have differing laws regarding these unique cases, grandparents should carefully research and understand preceding cases and legal precedent for Missouri. Grandparents' rights may be a legal "gray area," but that does not mean they cannot have success in these types of cases. It is beneficial for a grandparent to have a clear understanding of all possible legal options before beginning an overwhelming legal process.

Source: Arizona Daily Star, "When families dissolve, grandparents often squeezed out", Patty Machelor, June 16, 2014

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