The Michigan Court of Appeals has overturned a trial court’s decision to award paternal grandparents visitation with their grandchildren against the wishes of the children’s mother. According to the Court of Appeals, the original trial court did not show the appropriate level of deference to the mother’s wishes in establishing its decision. Working with an experienced family law lawyer in Berrien County is the first important step in ensuring your wishes are considered in a similar situation.
About the Case
The case was brought to court by the paternal grandparents of the children. The mother of the children was married to the plaintiff’s son, who passed away in 2012. When the mother decided she didn’t want the grandparents visiting with her children, the grandparents decided to take the issue to court and asked for grandparent visitation. The court eventually awarded the plaintiffs with designated visitation, claiming that there was “no reason whatsoever” to deny such time.
The mother appealed the case, stating that preventing children from visiting with their grandparents would not have a negative effect on the children’s well-being. While the original trial court’s decision was based on an idea of grandparenting being “good,” the appeal stated that no such precedent has been established and that the court abused its discretion in determining what was good for the children based on its own ideas about parenting.
Here’s appellate lawyer Liisa R. Speaker:
“The statute is very clear that a trial court cannot award grandparenting time unless the grandparents meet the burden of proving, at least by a preponderance, that there is a substantial risk of harm to the child in denying grandparenting time.”
The Court of Appeals sided with the mother, explaining that the trial court treated the case like a traditional divorce case and did not have any evidence to show that limiting access to the grandparents would harm the child. The Court of Appeals has now established that lay or expert testimony must be provided establishing negative consequence of blocking grandparent access in order for a similar decision to be made in the future.
Thus, it’s very important to work with a family law lawyer in Berrien County to ensure your case matches up with existing precedents and recent adjustments in the way laws are enforced. Decisions like this out of the Court of Appeals affect hundreds or even thousands of similar cases — it’s vital that you have an expert on your side to navigate the changing tides. For further information or to schedule a consultation please contact Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC at 269.982.1100 or visit www.pjjfamilyprobatelaw.com.