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Grandparent Visitation Ruled Constitutional

Clarkston Legal Nov. 1, 2015

A very significant grandparents’ rights case was decided by the Michigan Court of Appeals last month. The case, arising from Washtenaw County, has tested the constitutional implications of the Grandparent Visitation Act through several trips up and down the appellate courts.

In Varran v Granneman, the unwed father and mother of a minor child were minors when they conceived and had a baby. Subsequently, mother died and the child was raised by father in the home of the paternal grandparents.

From a legal perspective, the biological father had sole legal custody of the child upon mother’s untimely death. His parents, the child’s paternal grandparents, were instrumental in raising the child.

Following a conflict with his parents, father, still a very young man, was asked to leave their home; the child stayed behind with his paternal grandparents. Father moved to an apartment and began seeing his young son; only on Saturday nights at first, but then over entire weekends.

Eventually, father had his son during the entire week, with the boy spending weekends with his paternal grandparents. Then came the day father announced to his parents that their overnight visits with the boy were suspended and they could only see their grandson under father’s supervision.

Some years before, while mother was still alive, she filed a custody lawsuit in the Washtenaw family court. When their visitation was cut-off by their son, the grandparents filed a motion for visitation in that custody suit.

The family court judge ordered the grandparents to have visitation of their grandson every other weekend. Father appealed, and up and down the case went for several years.

The case is very significant to the extent that the Court of Appeals has now ruled, in a 2-1 published and binding decision, that a family court order for grandparent visitation is appealable of right as a final order under the rules of procedure.

This opinion has had the effect of determining that the grandparent visitation statute is constitutional; and that a family court judge does not need to hear testimony from a mental health professional to decide the issue of whether withholding visitation would harm the child.

The effect of the ruling is that now, grandparents can assert their rights without having to retain expensive mental health experts to testify about harm to their grandchild after conducting an invasive psychological evaluation for the family court judge.

If you or a member of your family has an issue involving grandparent visitation, contact our law firm to schedule a free consultation to discuss your options.

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