Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights in Kansas?

grandparent visitation rights

Grandparents and grandchildren often have a special bond. Sometimes, changes in a family’s situation can affect a grandparent’s ability to spend time with a grandchild. Under a Kansas law, a grandparent may be able ask a court for visitation rights with the grandchild.

Kansas Law on Grandparent Visitation

A specific Kansas law, found at K.S.A. 23-3301, addresses grandparent visitation rights. The statute provides that a court may grant reasonable visitation rights to the grandparent of a minor child if the court finds 1) visitation rights would be in the child’s best interests, and 2) “a substantial relationship between the grandparent and the child has been established.” The law requires both criteria to be met if a grandparent requests the court to order visitation with a grandchild.

The statute further states that a court may grant visitation to the parents of a deceased person, or enforce visitation previously granted, even if the surviving parent remarried and the new spouse adopted the child. The requirements stated in the law must be met whether a grandparent requests visitation by intervening in a divorce or custody action or by filing a petition for grandparent visitation in the county where the child resides.

Establishing the Basis for Grandparent Visitation

To meet the statutory requirements, a grandparent has the burden of proving that visitation is in the child’s best interests and that the grandparent has a substantial relationship. Satisfying both criteria requires the introduction of evidence in court.

In many cases, the evidence concerning the relationship between the grandparent and child will be a determining factor in the court’s analysis. The existence of a relationship is typically shown by information concerning how often the grandparent visited with the child in the past, whether (and how) they maintained regular contact, what activities they enjoyed together, and other matters indicating the closeness of the relationship. The extent of the grandparent’s involvement with the child, such as providing child care, is also relevant.

In assessing the child’s best interests, the court considers a variety of factors relating to the child’s general welfare both physically and emotionally and to the child’s health and safety. Other factors relating to the best interests of the child may include the potential of conflicts with the parent’s proposed schedule for the child and the impact on the child’s normal schedule.

Kansas courts assume that a fit parent acts in the best interests of a child, so the parent’s opinion concerning grandparent visitation carries significant weight in court. If a parent objects to the visitation, the grandparent must be able to present evidence to demonstrate that the objection is unreasonable.

Establishing the basis for visitation can be challenging, particularly if a parent objects to the requested visitation. A grandparent is strongly advised to consult with an experienced family law attorney before pursuing an action for visitation. If the grandparent decides to proceed, representation by a lawyer in the court proceeding is virtually essential.

Deciding Whether to Pursue Visitation

If you are a grandparent considering a visitation petition, you should know that if you are unsuccessful, the court may ultimately hold you responsible for paying the attorney’s fees and costs of the child’s parent in defending against the action. If the court finds the parent’s limitations on visitation reasonable under the circumstances, the court has authority to order you to pay the parent’s legal costs. In contrast, if a parent has unreasonably denied visitation or interfered with the relationship between the grandparent and grandchild without any justification, the judge may deny a request by the parent for payment of legal costs.

The issue of court costs is just one consideration that should enter into your decision whether to pursue grandparent visitation. Equally important is evaluating the potential to succeed in getting visitation. Kansas law makes it possible for a court to award grandparent visitation, even over a parent’s objection. But whether you can succeed in a visitation petition depends entirely on the facts and circumstances of your case and on the evidence you present in court.

The evidentiary burden for a grandparent who files a visitation petition is substantial. It is unlikely that you can meet the burden on your own without assistance from an experienced family law attorney. Talking with a lawyer before making your decision can also help you evaluate the strength or weakness of your case, before you make the final determination about how best to proceed.

Schedule a Consultation with a Kansas Family Law Attorney

The family law attorneys at Sloan Law Firm assist clients with all types of proceedings involving children, including petitions for grandparent visitation. We take pride in our comprehensive experience, knowledge, and skill in all matters affecting children and families. We welcome you to contact us to schedule a consultation.

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Categories: Family Issues