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Mississippi Grandparents' Rights

Martin v. Koop Defines Best Interest



Mississippi's Southern hospitality doesn't mean that grandparents will have a warm reception in court.

Photo © DavetheMage / Creative Commons

The state of Mississippi is generally considered a restrictive state when it comes to grandparents' visitation rights.

Mississippi law allows grandparents to petition for visitation if they are the parents of a non-custodial parent, a parent whose parental rights have been terminated or a deceased parent. A grandparent may petition for visitation outside of the above circumstances only if there is a "viable" grandparent-grandchild relationship and if the grandparent has been "unreasonably" denied visitation. The statutes provide two tests for proving a viable relationship. The first is providing part or all of a child's financial support for at least six months. The second is having frequent visits with the child, including occasional overnight visits, for a period of at least one year.

In Mississippi, as in all of the 50 states, the courts must consider the best interest of the child. Mississippi statutes do not enumerate any factors to be considered in determining best interest, but in the case of Martin v. Koop, the Mississippi Supreme Court listed ten factors. These include:

  • Any disruption caused by visitation
  • The suitability of the grandparent's home
  • The age of the child
  • The age and both the physical and mental health of the grandparents
  • Any emotional ties between grandparent and grandchild
  • The grandparent's moral fitness
  • The physical distance between the child's home and the grandparent's
  • Any undermining of the parent's discipline by the grandparent
  • Any responsibilities associated with the employment of the grandparent
  • The grandparent's willingness to accept the parent's child-rearing decisions.

Grandparents may not file for visitation with a child who has been adopted unless one of the adoptive parents is a natural parent or unless one of the adoptive parents was related to the child by blood or marriage prior to the adoption.

See Mississippi Statutes 93-16-3 and 93-16-7.

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