The Law Office of Kurt H King

March 19, 2013

Missouri Grandparent Visitation Under 452.402

Filed under: Custody,Divorce,Family Law,Paternity,Support — kurthking @ 8:17 pm
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At a Clay County family law seminar last Friday (03.15.2013), Commissioner Roberts spoke on Grandparent Visitation in Missouri under much revised statute 452.404.   Our Commissioner apparently put a good deal of work into researching the background and status of this relatively involved law.  The gist of what I took from her presentation includes:

1.  Important to select the correct tool to proceed for grandparent visitation rights.  Use the wrong one at your extreme peril and likely defeat.  Choices include: 1) Motion to Intervene into a Dissolution of Marriage case; 2) Motion to Modify where this is already a judgment of dissolution; 3) separate action for grandparent visitation where, for example, one parent is deceased and the surviving parent denies visitation.

2.  If the parents are legally married, and living together with the child (not having filed for divorce or legal separation), the grandparents CANNOT file for visitation under 452.404 even if unreasonably denied all visitation with the grandchildren.

3.  When a denial is “unreasonable,” and what visitation is “reasonable,” is undefined and far from clear.

4.  The Commissioner  reads 452.404 as requiring in all cases that unreasonable denial of visitation have run for 90 days or more.  Otherwise, the court lacks jurisdiction and the case may well be dismissed.  The statute is unclear but the Commissioner is probably right.  Simply put, if the denial is not unreasonable and has not run for at least 90 days, do not file for grandparent visitation.

5.  Step-grandparents have no right to use 452.404 but may try to proceed for visitation as a “third party” under 452.375.

6.  Older cases allowed grandparents of children born out of wedlock to obtain visitation rights.  Commissioner Roberts opines that the new version of 452.404 limits such grandparent visitation actions involving out of wedlock grandchildren to only cases where a parent dies and the grandparents of the deceased parent are unreasonably denied visitation with the grandchildren; OR, the grandchild lived with the grandparent the necessary time frames AND the grandparent is unreasonably denied visitation for 90 days or more.

7.   As a broad general rule, there is no room for grandparent visitation motions to intervene in a case to adopt the grandchildren.  Rare exception was once made where the grandparents had already been granted visitation rights (in a paternity case) which the court found were NOT terminated by the subsequent adoption case.  There is also the alternative route of seeking generic third party rights through a 452.375 action.

8.  In probate actions by a grandparent for guardianship of the grandchild, a settlement whereby the grandparents dismiss in exchange for an order of visitation rights runs considerable risk.  In Clay County, the court finds that it has NO equitable rights to order such grandparent visitation rights and 452.404 does not apply in probate settings.  Clay County would say that it cannot grant the petitioning grandparents visitation as all they can seek there is guardianship and to also be appointed conservator.    Thus, such a visitation order would be void ab initio in Clay County as was also the case in the case of In the Matter of DCO and AOD, 239 S.W.3d 714 (Mo. Ct. App. S.D. 2007).  Jackson County begs to differ, however, contending that it has the equitable power to order grandparent visitation in such an instance.

9.  Note that grandparent visitation is a creature of statute and cannot survive absent specific statutory authority.

10.  Again, 452.404 does NOT apply to probate proceedings.

11.  A mere 2 hours every 90 days has been found to be sufficient grandparent visitation.  Is a grandparent visitation case worth the time and trouble?

12.  Commissioner Roberts provided a good working outline on this subject and presumably would share it with interested counsel.

 

Kurt H. King

Law Office of Kurt H. King, 20 E. Franklin, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri 64068

816.781.6000

Family Law–Dissolutions, Modifications, Child Support/Custody/Visitation, Paternity

General Litigation and Matters

http://www.kurthking.com

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