Grandparents have visitation rights, but those rights can be quite narrow in Kansas.
Generally, grandparents may be able to obtain court-ordered visitation with their grandchild upon establishing that there is an existing, substantial relationship with the child. The grandparents need to convince the judge that scheduled physical contact with the child is in the child’s best interests—that the child would benefit from the relationship. In those circumstances the issue can boil down to how much grandparent time is ordered.
A recent case arose when the paternal grandmother filed a motion in an existing case between two unmarried parents, requesting grandparent visitation and asserting that she had an existing relationship with the child. The natural mother agreed that grandma had an existing relationship, and she did not oppose the grandparent having some contact with her child.
The mother’s objection was to the amount of time that the grandmother sought. The grandmother wanted one weekend a month, while mother wanted to limit the contact with her child to a 5-hour period each month.
At the hearing the mother opposed the amount of time sought by grandma out of concerns for the welfare and safety of the child. The trial court ruled in favor of the grandmother and granted the request for a whole weekend of grandparent time.
The mother appealed the trial court’s decision to the appellate court.
The appellate court held that under Kansas law the trial judge must presume that mother’s proposed grandparenting time is in the child’s best interests, giving “special weight” to mother’s preferences. The court should consider a more expansive schedule only if the judge determines that mother’s plan is in fact unreasonable.
The trial judge had not made any determination that the mother’s proposal was unreasonable when it ruled in favor of the grandmother. Therefore the appeals court sent the case back to the trial judge to take a hard look at the mother’s proposed visitation schedule and determine whether it was unreasonable.
We do not know what the trial court will rule the second time around, but this case reaffirms the deference that is given under the law to what the natural parent considers to be in the best interests of the child. This can be a painful restriction on grandparents who want more physical contact with their grandchild than a parent will allow.
Richard Ralls of Ralls Law Firm can assist you in determining whether you can enforce grandparent rights. Call us at 913 236 7260 or 816 421 4222. Licensed in Kansas and Missouri.