Family Court Modification of Another State’s Family Court Order By Expanding Grandparents’ Visitation and Timesharing is Upheld on Appeal

Louisiana Husband and Wife have a preschool-aged Daughter together.

Wife dies.

Wife’s parents, Grandparents, seek visitation and timesharing with Daughter.

Husband and Grandparents reach an agreement granting Grandparents substantial visitation with Daughter. The agreement recognizes that the timesharing schedule will have to be adjusted when Daughter begins school.

The agreement is adopted in a Louisiana family court order. The family court also approves of Husband and Daughter relocating to Mississippi.

After Husband and Daughter relocate, Husband registers the Louisiana family court order in Mississipi. This permits enforcement of the Louisiana family court order in the Mississippi family court.

Grandparents ask the Mississippi family court to hold Husband in contempt and enforce the Louisiana family court visitation and timesharing order.

Husband does not dispute his noncompliance with the Louisiana family court order.

He does, however, ask the Mississipi family court to modify the Louisiana family court order by dramatically reducing Grandparents’ visitation and timesharing with Daughter based upon her reaching school age and certain conduct by Grandparents that he objects to, such as allegedly not adhering strictly to Daughter’s special diet and calling Daughter by her first name instead of her middle name, which is the same as Wife’s.

The Mississippi family court changes Grandparents’ visitation and timesharing schedule, but does not reduce their visitation. In fact, the Mississippi family court increases their timesharing a bit.

Husband appeals as to the modification only, objecting that his due process rights were violated by a perceived rejection of his objections to Grandparents’ conduct and arguing that Grandparents did not ask for more visitation, so the family court does not have authority to award it.

On appeal, the Mississippi appellate court upholds the Mississippi family court’s modification and expansion of Grandparents’ visitation and timesharing schedule with Daughter, underscoring that the original Louisiana agreement and court order affording Grandparents visitation and timesharing were not challenged when made in Louisiana and are not subject to review on this appeal.

As for the changes made by the Mississippi family court, the appellate court finds that both parties asserted that Grandparents’ current timesharing schedule no longer works for them and Husband specifically sought modification of the schedule in his pleadings. Grandparents’ objections to the schedule was tantamount to a request by Grandparents for modification.

And the Mississippi family court found at trial that it was in Daughter’s best interests to increase timesharing with Grandparents, and that finding was within its discretion.

The appellate court also confirms that the Mississippi family court has jurisdiction to modify the Louisiana court order under Mississippi’s Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

Since neither Daughter, either of her parents or any one “acting as a parent” to Daughter still lives in Louisiana, and Daughter and Husband have been living in Mississippi for two years, Mississippi is now Daughter’s “home state”. Grandparents’ access rights do not bring them within the statutory definition of someone “acting as a parent”. Indeed, Husband has “sole legal custody” of Daughter.

As to Husband’s objections to certain specific conduct by Grandparents, the Mississippi family court instructed Grandparents in regard to those matters. Thereby accommodating Husband’s due process concerns and upholding his fundamental parental rights.

Read more in this Mississippi appellate opinion.