Kansas Grandparents' Rights

Prior Grandparent—Grandchild Relationship Is Considered

Grandparent and grandchild in a truck
The Kansas law providing for grandparent visitation has survived a constitutionality test. Hero Images / Getty images

In the state of Kansas, visitation rights depend upon the grandparent and grandchild having had a prior relationship and a showing that visitation is in the child's best interests. In most cases, the quality of the grandparent-grandchild relationship will be the determining factor. If grandparents have acted as parents, even for a short time, that can be important.

If the grandparents' case was triggered by the divorce of the grandchild's parents, the hearing will be set in the county where the divorce was handled, no matter how old the divorce case.

The parent of a deceased parent can be granted visitation even if the surviving parent has remarried and, more importantly, even if the new parent has adopted the child. Otherwise, adoption ends visitation rights.

How to Get Started

If the parents of the grandchild are divorced, suit must be filed in the county in which the divorce case was adjudicated. Grandparents should begin by writing a letter to the judge. They'll need to know the case number, but this is a matter of public record. It can probably be found online. If not, it should be available at the county courthouse. 

In their letter, grandparents will need to make their case for why visitation is in the best interests of their grandchild. The relevant information is how much time that they have spent with their grandchild, how intimately they have been involved in care and what traditions and rituals they have established with their grandchild. The purpose of this letter is to persuade the judge to set a hearing so that the grandparent can make a case in person. If grandparents are awarded visitation, the amount of visitation will probably depend upon how substantial the grandparent-grandchild relationship appears to be, so the documentation of that relationship should be as complete and thorough as possible.

If no case involving divorce, custody or paternity is present, you can still petition for visitation, but the process is more complex and almost certainly will require the services of an attorney.

Possible Costs

It is costly to go to court, even if you win. Here are some of the fees you may be asked to pay:

  • If the relevant court case is not open, you will have to pay to have it reopened.
  • If you have to file a formal petition, you will have to pay filing fees.
  • You will have to pay your own attorney's fees, unless you act as your own attorney.
  • You may have to pay the parents' attorney's fees.

Separate, of course, from these monetary costs are other costs, such as the stress that your case may cause for you and other family members, including your grandchildren.

Constitutional Questions

Like most states, Kansas had the constitutionality of its law challenged in the wake of the United States Supreme Court decision in Troxel v. Granville, which struck down Washington State's grandparent visitation statute. The challenge in Kansas came in the case of Skov v. Wicker. The Kansas Supreme Court found the law constitutional. In another aspect of the case, the justices ruled that neither great-grandparents nor step-grandparents qualify as grandparents under the law.

See the Kansas statute. You may also want to go to Kansas Legal Services, which has an online document about grandparents' rights.