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Minor’s Guardian Cannot Prevent Grandparent Visitation

Clarkston Legal Oct. 23, 2013

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month that a court-appointed guardian of a minor child cannot prevent contact between the child and his Grandmother. Thus, this case holds that a minor’s guardian is not the equivalent of a parent.

This case, Book-Gilbert v Greenleaf, is one of first impression in Michigan as no prior decisions directly touched on this issue. The published and thus binding decision will have a significant impact on minor guardianships.

The facts in the case are sad, as are so many of the cases from our family and probate courts. The minor’s mother is deceased and his father, once homeless, is in prison on a sex abuse conviction.

After nearly a year of not being allowed to see her grandson, the paternal grandmother sought visitation under the grandparent visitation statute. She filed a motion in the Genesee County Family Court hoping to go over-the-head of her grandson’s guardian, who repeatedly refused the grandmother’s requests for visitation.

Family Court Judge Kay Behm ruled after 4-days of evidentiary hearings that a guardian could step into the shoes of a parent and deny contact with the grandmother. In ruling in the Grandmother’s favor, the Court of Appeals reversed Judge Behm holding that: the grandparenting statute was not properly followed; that the Legislature elected not to equate a guardian with a parent in the context of the grandparenting statute; and that the minor guardianship and the grandparenting statutes cover different subject matter.

The next step is reunification between grandmother and grandson. For this young boy’s sake, hopefully this will go well; he already has a very troubled past.