Grandparent Visitation: How Much?

July 18, 2013 § 2 Comments

In most cases, grandparent visitation should not be as comprehensive or extensive as that of natural parents. Martin v. Coop, 693 So.2d 912, 916 (Miss. 1997).

But just what amount of visitation is reasonable for grandparents? Here is a collection of cases addressing the question:

  • Settle v. Galloway, 682 So.2d 1032 (Miss. 1996). The MSSC affirmed an award of alternating weekends, plus Easter and Thanksgiving in alternating years. The court pointed out that grandparent visitation on alternating weekends would probably be excessive in the usual case, but that it was appropriate in this particular case because the non-custodial parent was in the military and could not exercise his usual visitation.
  • Martin v. Coop, 693 So.2d 912 (Miss. 1997). The MSSC reversed an award of 86 days in even-numbered years, and 81 days in  odd-numbered years. The court found that “Grandparents do not stand in lieu of or in the shoes of the deceased parent,” and “[V]isitation granted to grandparents should not be the equivalent to that which would be granted to a non-custodial parent unless the circumstances overwhelmingly dictate that it should be.” Id., at 916.
  • Zeman v. Stanford, 789 So.2d 798 (Miss. 2001). In a case where the non-custodial parent was incarcerated, and was unable to exercise any visitation, the MSSC affirmed a chancellor’s award of one weekend per month, finding that the situation was analogous to the Settle case, supra.
  • Woodell v. Parker, 860 So.2d 781 (Miss. 2003). Affirmed the chancellor’s award of: one weekend per month; every other Spring Break/Easter holiday; the Friday and Saturday following Thanksgiving; the five days following Christmas; two weeks during the summer; and regular telephone and “postal” access.  Id., at 790.
  • T.T.W. v. C.C. and J.C., 839 So.2d 501 (Miss. 2003). The court remanded for a full consideration of the Martin factors in a case where the parents resisted visitation due to the grandparents’ interference with parental decisions and discipline. Interestingly, the court suggested that, “on remand the chancellor might consider options other than a wholesale grant or denial of visitation,” and pointed out that supervised visitation might alleviate many of the problems that had arisen. Id., at 506. 

Remember that the amount and extent of grandparent visitation may only be determined by the trial court after application of the Martin v. Coop factors.

Visitation may be modified “for cause.” MCA 93-16-5; Rose v. Upshaw, 69 So.3d 74, 79 (Miss. App. 2011).

[This post is based on material prepared by attorney David Bridges and presented to the Conference of Chancery Judges in April, 2013]


§ 2 Responses to Grandparent Visitation: How Much?

  • I am somewhat perplexed that this summary does not mention the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000), and the Mississippi cases discussing that decision (e.g., Stacy v. Ross, 798 So.2d 1275 (Miss. 2001). After Troxel, all trial courts must start with the rebuttable presumption that a fit custodial parent’s decision to limit or deny grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interests. The courts must also give “special weight” to the parent’s wishes and objections.

    • Larry says:

      That’s an excellent observation, and in distilling Mr. Bridges’ material, I should have gone through his analysis of Troxel before dipping into Martin v. Coop. Thanks for pointing that out.

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