Grandparent Visitation in Mississippi
Grandparents often play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren. Figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show that in 2006, of the 5.7 million grandparents who were living with their grandchildren, 42 percent were the primary caregivers. In recognition of the special relationship between a grandparent and grandchild, the Mississippi legislature has given grandparents visitation rights in two situations.
Statutory visitation rights
As a grandparent, you may petition a court for visitation rights if your child loses custody, has their parental rights terminated or dies. If these circumstances do not apply to you, the court may still grant visitation rights if you meet all the following criteria:
- You previously had a viable relationship with the child
- The parent or custodian unreasonably denied you visitation rights
- Your visitation would be in the best interests of the child
You had a viable relationship with the child if, before filing the petition for visitation, you met one of the following criteria:
- You provided the child with some financial support for at least six months
- You had frequent visits, including the occasional overnight visit, for a period of at least a year
- You cared for the child for a significant period of time while the parent was in jail or absent from the home serving in the military
These rights are exclusive to grandparents and the courts have refused to extend them to other third parties, such as siblings.
Even if you meet the statutory criteria, you still need to satisfy the court that visitation is in the best interests of the child. Courts consider 10 factors in determining grandparent visitation. These factors include the suitability of your home, the amount of disruption to the child’s life, the child’s age and your moral fitness. None of the factors carry greater weight than any other and they are not all-inclusive. The court considers all the circumstances and factors it feels to be appropriate.
If you are a grandparent and would like access to your grandchild, contact a skilled family law attorney in Gulfport to discuss your rights.