9.7Susan M. Hais

As we have noted before in this blog, we frequently receive questions about grandparent visitation. Specifically, we are often asked whether grandparents may seek court-ordered visitation. The answer to this question is, yes, Missouri law does indeed provide an avenue for grandparents to seek court-ordered visitation. Please see our previous blog post to learn more about the circumstances under which grandparent visitation may be sought.

Another frequent question we receive regarding grandparent visitation is: assuming the court orders grandparent visitation, how much visitation will the grandparent(s) receive? The answer to this question is that there is no exact amount of visitation a court is required to order. Instead, courts have discretion to order appropriate amounts of visitation. Therefore, it is impossible to say, with specificity, how much visitation may be granted to grandparents. However, the Supreme Court of Missouri has given some guidelines about this topic that shed light on the likely parameters of grandparent visitation.

In a case entitled Blakely v. Blakely, the Missouri Supreme Court affirmed previous Missouri courts that decided, in order for grandparent visitation to be upheld, it must not be “excessive” or “exceed[] a minimum intrusion on family relationship.” Please see the Missouri cases Herndon v. Tuhey and Hampton v. Hampton respectively. As noted by the Missouri Supreme Court in Herndon, Grandparent visitation will be considered “excessive” if it is equivalent to the amount normally given to parents. Moreover, grandparent visitation “exceed[s] a minimum intrusion on family relationship,” according to the Missouri Court of Appeals (Western District), when overnight visitations are ordered every other weekend. Therefore, it is clear in Missouri that grandparents will most likely receive much less visitation than parents receive.

Sometimes grandparent visitation is, in fact, very limited and much less than desired. For example, in the case entitled In re G.P.C., the Missouri Court of Appeals (Eastern District, Southern Division) held that grandparent visitation consisting of only two hours of supervised visitation every three months is appropriate. Importantly, many grandparents receive significantly more visitation than two hours every three months, but such limited visitation sometimes does occur.

Many grandparents had been accustomed to visiting with their grandchildren extensively before the problems arose that resulted in restricted, or altogether prohibited, visitation. As a result, the fact that Missouri courts order limited grandparent visitation can be difficult to bear. However, Missouri courts have consistently come to this conclusion. Therefore, it is important for grandparent litigants in visitation cases to have realistic expectations and understand that they will likely not receive as much court-ordered visitation as they desire.

Whether you are a grandparent seeking grandparent visitation, or a parent contesting visitation, we can help. Please contact us so that we can discuss the details of your situation and how we can best assist you.