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Can grandparents get child custody and visitation rights?

The laws regarding grandparent child custody and visitation rights vary from state to state and are constantly evolving. There are generally two types of laws: restrictive visitation statutes, which allows grandparents to be granted visitation rights only if the child's parents are divorced or if they are both deceased, and permissive visitation statutes. Most states have permissive visitation statutes that allow grandparents to request visitation even if the child's parents are both alive or still married.

All courts will consider the best interests of the child when making any determination regarding custody or visitation. Some factors that may be considered by Mississippi courts are the emotional ties between the grandparent and the child, any disruptions that may occur due to the visitation and the physical and mental health of the grandparent. There is a legal presumption in favor of a child's biological parents and judges are cautious when deciding whether to grant child custody to a third party.

Mississippi courts tend to express a narrow interpretation of grandparent's rights, as encouraged by the U.S. Supreme Court in Troxel v. Granville. That case highlighted the extremely limited nature of grandparent rights; the court held that fit parents are presumed to be acting in the best interest of the child even when they choose to eliminate contact with family members such as grandparents. Mississippi is a restrictive visitation state, therefore grandparents may only petition for visitation if they are the parents of a non-custodial parent, a deceased parent or a parent whose parental rights have been terminated.

Mississippi grandparents may be granted visitation if there is a viable relationship between the grandparent and the grandchild and if the grandparent has been unreasonably denied visitation. To prove that there is a viable relationship, the grandparent must show that they provided at least some of the child's financial support for at least six months and that they had frequent visits with the child, sometimes overnight, for at least one year. Grandparents in Mississippi may be granted child custody in limited circumstances where they can prove that the child's parents are unfit due to substance abuse or child abuse and neglect.

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