Now that divorces are so prevalent in the United States it is common to hear stories of a parent being awarded visitation rights and/or custody of their children, but it is far less common to hear about a grandparent being awarded these types of rights. In fact, many people are not even aware that Mississippi law allows grandparents to petition for visitation rights in certain situations. This article briefly explains what visitation rights are and describes the situations in which a grandparent can petition the court for visitation rights in Mississippi. However, each case is unique and anyone interested in asking the court to award grandparent visitation rights should consult with a local family law attorney.
What are Visitation Rights?
Generally speaking, visitation rights are simply court orders that afford non-custodial parents, and in some cases grandparents, the right to visit with their child (or grandchild) in some capacity. Visitation rights are often issued in connection with divorce and custody actions, but they can also be awarded under other circumstances as well. Visitation rights are most commonly awarded as part of divorce cases in which one parent is awarded sole custody of the couple’s children and the other parent (i.e. the noncustodial parent) is granted visitation rights.
When Can a Grandparent Petition for Visitation Rights in Mississippi?
Under Mississippi Code section 93-16-3 a grandparent has the right to petition the court for visitation time with their grandchild when any of the following circumstances occur:
- The court awards custody of the minor grandchild to one of the child’s parents,
- The court terminates the parental rights of one of the minor grandchild’s parents, and/or
- One of the minor grandchild’s parents dies.
Additionally, even if a grandparent is not able to petition the court for visitation rights under one of the circumstances listed above, they may still be able to obtain visitation rights with their grandchild if the grandparent can prove that (a) they have a viable relationship with their grandchild, (b) the parent(s) of the child have unreasonably denied the grandparent access to the child, and (c) awarding visitation rights to the grandparent would be in the child’s best interests. Here, the “viable relationship” element is often the most challenging to prove as it can only be established by demonstrating that:
- The grandparent voluntarily and in good faith supported the child financially, in whole or in part, for at least six months before petitioning for visitation rights with the child,
- The grandparent had frequent visitation (including occasional overnight visits) with the child for at least one year, or
- The child was cared for by the grandparent for a significant period of time while his or her parent was in jail or on military duty.
Let Us Help You Today
If you’re a grandparent who would like more information about obtaining visitation rights in Mississippi feel free to contact Derek L. Hall, PC by calling (601) 768-8267 at your earliest convenience. One of our experienced grandparents’ rights attorneys would be happy to discuss your legal options with you during a free initial consultation at our Jackson office. Don’t wait, start fighting for your legal rights today.