Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights in Mississippi?

Learn about grandparents’ rights to court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren.

Divorce, separation, or one parent's death can affect grandparents' relationships with their grandchildren, especially if the surviving parent tries to limit their time together. This article explains when and how grandparents can request court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren in Mississippi.

Do I have a legal right to grandparent visitation?

In Mississippi, grandparents have a legal right to ask the court for reasonable visitation with their grandchildren:

  • before or after divorce, separation, or one parent's death
  • if the grandparent provided financial support for the child for at least six months, or
  • if the grandparent had frequent visitation, including overnights, for at least one year.

What must I prove in court?

The grandparent asking for time has the "burden of proof" (duty to provide sufficient evidence) to show:

  • the grandparent and child have an active relationship based on a history of providing financial support for at least six months and/or frequent visitation for at least one year
  • the child's parent has unreasonably denied grandparent visitation, and
  • the proposed visits are in the child's best interests, considering health, safety, and welfare.

When making its decision, the court will consider any relevant evidence, such as:

  • the potential disruption of extensive visitation on the child's life
  • the grandparent's ability to provide adequate supervision during the proposed time
  • the child and grandparent's age, and physical and mental health
  • the extent of an existing grandparent-grandchild relationship
  • the grandparent's "moral fitness" (character)
  • the distance between the grandparent's home and the child's home
  • any history of the grandparent undermining the parent's discipline approach
  • the grandparent's job duties, and
  • the grandparent's willingness to accept the parent as the child's sole caregiver.

Courts give great weight to parental preferences regarding who gets to visit their children. And if one parent has sole custody, any proposed visitation schedule must not interfere with the other parent's time.

How do I start the process?

You must file a "petition" (formal written request) in the court that's making custody and visitation orders regarding your grandchild, or in the county where the child resides. In your petition, you will describe the visitation schedule you would like to put in place.

Once you've filed your request, you must give notice to everyone involved, including the child's parents and anyone else that may have filed for custody. The court may require you to pay both sides' attorneys' fees and costs if the parent establishes a financial hardship.

If you already have a visitation order, but you want more time or the child's parent is preventing your visits, you can ask the court to enforce or "modify" (change) it by showing the existing order is not working.

Will I continue to have rights if my grandchild is adopted by another family?

Adoption transfers all legal rights from a child's biological parents and relatives to the adoptive parents and family. If your grandchild's parents put the child up for adoption with another family, your grandparent visitation rights will be terminated and transferred to the adoptive grandparents.

How do I get custody of my grandchild?

Mississippi courts will consider awarding custody to a non-parent if doing so is in a child's best interest. Anyone can ask the court for custody by proving the natural or legal parents are unfit, but grandparents have priority over other non-parent requests.

In order to show that a parent is unfit, you would need to convince a judge that the parent is unable to provide a safe and supportive living environment, and/or has abandoned or neglected the child. If you can show that the child's parents are unfit, then you must also show that living with you would be in the child's best interests, considering your grandchild's health, safety, and welfare.

If you have questions about your right to spend time with your grandchild, you should speak to a local, experienced family law attorney, who can help you navigate this process.

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