Grandparent Visitation Rights in Kansas

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In Kansas, grandparents can obtain their own visitation rights to their grandchildren in the right circumstances. Under K.S.A. 23-3301(a), “grandparents and stepparents may be granted visitation rights.” “The district court may grant the grandparents of an unmarried minor child reasonable visitation rights to the child during the child's minority upon a finding that the visitation rights would be in the child's best interests and when a substantial relationship between the child and the grandparent has been established.” Id. at 23-3301(b). “The district court must make both findings before grandparent visitation may be granted.” K.V. v. T.R. (In re M.V.), 56 Kan. App. 2d 28, 34. The court determined that K.S.A. 23-3301 does not apply solely in divorce cases and is the first statute in a separate article entitled “Third Party Visitation.” Frost v. Kansas Department for Children and Families, 59 Kan. App. 2d 404, 413, 483 P.3d 1058, rev. denied 313 Kan. 1040 (2021).

Fundamental Rights for Parents

One of the oldest “fundament liberty interests” is “the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.” Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65-66, 120 S. Ct. 2054, 147 L. Ed. 2d 49 (2000). The court must give special weight to the parent’s views on grandparent visitation, but the parent’s determination on grandparent visitation is “not always absolute.” Schwarz v. Schwarz, 62 Kan. App. 2d 103, 114. The burden of proof is on the grandparent to show why the grandparent is entitled to visitation. Id. at 119. A fit parent has the fundamental right to parent her children as she sees fit, so the court must give deference to the parent’s visitation plan. Id. The court must presume the parent’s plan is in the “children’s best interests absent a showing that it is unreasonable under the circumstances.” Id.

Keeping a Child's Best Interest in Mind

The grandparent has the burden to show the parent’s plan is “unreasonable and contrary to the children’s best interests.” Id. “This court has declined to apply a bright-line rule that a parent's proposed grandparent visitation plan ‘must be totally unreasonable before it can be rejected,’ and instead the focus must be on whether the parent's position on grandparent visitation is reasonable in light of the child's best interests when considering the totality of the circumstances.” Id. at 116 (citing In re Cathey, 38 Kan. App. 2d 368, 376, 165 P.3d 310 (2007)). “[R]easonableness at its most basic level requires conformity to the requirements of the law” and “a balancing of stimulus and response—finding a response that is commensurate with the nature and seriousness of the stimulus.” Schwarz, 62 Kan. at 118.

Kansas courts have found the parent’s decision to ‘cut off’ a grandparent’s visitation with the grandchildren to be unreasonable when the grandparent had a prior relationship with the grandchildren. See id. at 117; Davis v. Heath, 35 Kan. App. 2d 86, 94, 128 P.3d 434 (2006). In Schwarz, the grandmother had a relationship with the grandchildren prior to the father’s death, but blamed the mother for the father’s death and drove her older sons to the family lake house to commit burglary and theft. 62 Kan. at 114. However, the court found that the parent’s plan of denying any visitation to the grandmother was “not a balanced response to Grandmother’s conduct” and “unreasonably denie[d] the grandchildren the benefits of maintaining a relationship with Grandmother and with their paternal extended family.” Id. at 118-19. A grandparent that had a prior relationship with the grandchildren and has not acted in a manner that would be adverse to the child’s best interests is likely entitled to grandparent visitation. The grandparent must prove that the parent’s denial of grandparent visitation is unreasonable and is contrary to the child’s best interests in light of the totality of the circumstances. Special weight will be given to the fit parent’s determination of visitation, but the plan will not be given absolute deference if it is unreasonable. An outright denial of grandparent visitation, especially without any conduct by the grandparent, will typically not be a balanced response because it unreasonably denies the children the benefit of a relationship with their grandparent.


A fit parent has a fundamental right to determine how to raise her children, so grandparent visitation may be denied in certain circumstances. However, a parent’s plan that completely denies any visitation rights to the grandparents may not be valid if it is deemed unreasonable and contrary to the children’s best interests under the totality of the circumstances. While the above information discusses the visitation rights you may have with your grandchildren, the only way to learn what steps you need to take is by discussing your situation with an experienced family law attorney. If you are a grandparent and have questions about how to secure your grandparent visitation rights, or if you need help with any other type of domestic or family law matter, contact our experienced domestic and family law attorneys at Hampton & Royce, L.C. for help.

Categories: Family Law