Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hanson v. Carroll

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc

September 12, 2017

MARY HANSON and DAVID HANSON, Appellants,
v.
MARGARET CARROLL and BRIDGET CARROLL, Respondents.

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF ST. LOUIS The Honorable Christopher E. McGraugh, Judge

          GEORGE W. DRAPER III, JUDGE

         Mary and David Hanson (hereinafter and collectively, "Grandparents") appeal the circuit court's judgment dismissing their petition for visitation and custody of their grandson, R.H.C. (hereinafter, "Child"), over whom Margaret Carroll (hereinafter, "Carroll") and Bridget Carroll (hereinafter and collectively, "Guardians") have guardianship. This Court holds Grandparents' petition fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because their petition does not set forth the requisite elements of grandparent visitation under section 452.402.[1] This Court further holds Grandparents cannot state a cause of action under section 452.375.5(5)(a) for custody or visitation when letters of guardianship, which granted custody with full powers as provided by law, have been issued by the probate division. This Court affirms the circuit court's judgment dismissing Grandparents' petition.[2]

         Factual and Procedural History

         Child was born February 13, 2007. The parties have been entangled in protracted litigation since shortly after Child's second birthday. In March 2009, Carroll filed a petition for appointment of guardianship over Child. Grandparents' son and Child's father, John Hanson (hereinafter, "Father"), was a party to the proceeding and sought a determination of paternity, which was confirmed by DNA testing. Father opposed Carroll's petition for guardianship and sought to remain Child's natural guardian. Carroll's granddaughter and Child's mother, Maire Carroll (hereinafter, "Mother"), consented to the guardianship, filing pleadings in which Mother stated she was unfit, unable, and unwilling to serve as Child's natural guardian. Grandparents supported Father's efforts to remain Child's natural guardian but did not seek guardianship for themselves.

         On December 9, 2009, the probate division determined Mother and Father were unfit, unable, and unwilling to serve as Child's natural guardians. The probate division issued Carroll letters of guardianship, finding she was a suitable guardian, and it would be in Child's best interest that she be appointed his guardian. Subsequent to the probate division's guardianship award, Grandparents filed motions to intervene and to amend the guardianship judgment. The probate division overruled both motions. Neither Grandparents nor Father appealed the probate division's judgment.

         In February 2010, Grandparents filed a petition for visitation and child custody pursuant to section 452.402. Carroll filed a motion to dismiss. The circuit court dismissed Grandparents' petition for failure to state a claim because it did not meet the statutory requirements for grandparent visitation under section 452.402. The circuit court noted Grandparents could have been heard on this issue had they filed their own petition for guardianship in the probate court. Grandparents did not appeal this judgment.

         In February 2012, Grandparents filed another petition for grandparent visitation pursuant to section 452.402. Carroll again moved to dismiss the petition. The circuit court sustained Carroll's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, finding Grandparents could not meet the statutory requirements of section 452.402. Grandparents did not appeal this judgment.

         In June 2012, Grandparents returned to probate division and filed a petition to remove Carroll as guardian and to appoint a successor guardian.[3] Carroll filed a motion to dismiss. The probate court entered a judgment dismissing Grandparents' petition for lack of standing, finding Grandparents were not "interested parties" under the guardianship statutes. [4] The probate division noted its prior judgment did not grant Grandparents any rights - including visitation - to Child that would vest them with standing to pursue the petition. Grandparents appealed, but their appeal was dismissed for lack of standing. In re R.H.C., 419 S.W.3d 158 (Mo. App. E.D. 2013).

         In April 2014, Carroll's daughter, Bridget Carroll, sought to be appointed as Child's co-guardian. Grandparents filed a motion to intervene, which the probate division overruled, finding they lacked legal standing and relying on R.H.C. for support. The probate division issued letters of guardianship to Bridget Carroll to serve as Child's co-guardian shortly thereafter. Grandparents did not appeal.

         In March 2015, Grandparents filed a third petition for visitation and custody of Child, which is before this Court for review. Grandparents' third petition alleged that, since Child's birth, Grandparents have had liberal custody and visitation with Child and have interacted with Child as grandparents. Grandparents stated they have nurtured, loved, and developed a strong bond with Child. Grandparents averred Child lived with them at their residence, and they otherwise have spent significant time with Child. Grandparents alleged it was in Child's best interest and Child's welfare required Grandparents to continue to be a part of Child's life through scheduled visitation. Grandparents requested joint physical and legal custody of Child pursuant to chapter 452 generally. Guardians moved to dismiss the petition for lack of standing and for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because Grandparents could not meet the statutory requirements of section 452.402.

         After a hearing, the circuit court dismissed Grandparents' petition with prejudice. The circuit court noted Grandparents stated at the hearing they abandoned their claim for custody and limited their request to visitation only. The circuit court summarized the prior litigation and found there was no pending action under chapter 452 regarding Child's custody. The circuit court held none of the provisions of section 452.402 applied, and Grandparents could not maintain an original cause of action under section 452.375.5(5)(a) based on the facts alleged in their petition. Grandparents now appeal.

         Standard of Review

         This Court reviews de novo a circuit court's judgment dismissing an action for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In re T.Q.L., 386 S.W.3d 135, 139 (Mo. banc 2012). A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim tests solely the adequacy of Grandparents' petition. Id. This Court reviews the petition to determine whether Grandparents alleged facts that "meet the elements of a recognized cause of action or of a cause that might be adopted in that case." Avery Contracting, LLC v. Niehaus, 492 S.W.3d 159, 161 (Mo. banc 2016). This Court assumes the facts ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.