One of the principal concerns of divorcing couples in Mississippi is custody of their children. Husbands and wives often devote significant time, effort and money to convincing the court that only one of them is a suitable parent. This conflict often ignores two or four people who may have a vital interest in the children's welfare; their grandparents. Fortunately, Mississippi law makes specific provision for grandparents' rights to visitation determined by the court.
Three events can trigger a grandparent's right to petition the court for an order granting visitation rights with the children of a divorced couple:
- The entry of an order or decree awarding custody of a minor child to one of the parents
- The entry of an order or decree terminating the parental rights of a custodial parent
- The death of one of the child's natural parents
A grandparent who is not eligible to petition the court in these situations may petition the court for visitation if the court finds that the child had established a viable relationship the grandparent and the custodian had unreasonably prevented the grandparent from visiting the child and if such an order would be in the best interests of the child. There are several aspects of a "viable relationship:" the grandparents or either of them have supported the child in a financial sense for longer than six months ; the grandparents have visited and stayed overnight frequently with the child for longer than a year; the grandparents have cared for the child for a long period of time while the parents have been in jail or on military duty.
A grandparent who wishes to take legal action to establish formal visitation rights with one or more grandchildren may benefit from a consultation with an experienced family lawyer who can evaluate the case, provide suggestions for helpful legal strategies and an estimate of the likelihood of obtaining a favorable outcome.
Source: FindLaw, "Mississippi Code Title 93. Domestic Relations § 93-16-3," accessed on April 1, 2017