In the groundbreaking case of Troxel v. Granville, the U.S. Supreme Court held that grandparents have a right to visitation of grandchildren if the child’s parents are deemed unfit. Last week, the Court of Appeals published a decision that helps incorporate the Supreme Court’s definition of a fit parent into Michigan’s Child Custody Act. Despite this clarification, it can still be difficult to determine what a grandparent’s rights are in regards to visitation, so if you have questions or concerns about visiting your own grandchildren, you should speak with an experienced family law attorney who can advise you.
Defining a “Fit” Parent
In a 2000 Supreme Court case, the Court defined what qualifies as a “fit” parent for the purposes of determining custody. The case involved a grandparent who wished to have visitation with her grandchild, although the child’s parent refused. Ultimately, the Court determined that as long a parent is fit, he or she will be presumed to be acting in the best interest of any children. As a result, the Court refused to interfere in determining the issue of visitation. According to the Court, parents are fit if they adequately care for their children. If this burden is met, the court cannot intervene and require parents to allow visitation with extended family members.
This doctrine was reaffirmed in a recent Michigan Court of Appeals case, when the court found that the trial court had erred when it deemed the plaintiff’s parents unfit and so allowed for grandparent visitation. According to the trial court, the parents were not fit because they were inconsistent in their discipline, communication, and co-parenting, all of which created a substantial risk of harm to the mental, physical, and emotional health of their children.
In its opinion, the Court of Appeals formally incorporated the Supreme Court’s definition of “fit” into the Child Custody Act. After applying this definition to the parents in question, the court determined that it could not deprive them of their constitutionally protected rights to raise their children as they wish, which in this case, included a lack of contact with their grandfather. The court further stated that although the children’s parents sometimes had trouble communicating with each other, their inconsistencies did not reach the level of a lack of fitness.
Call Today to Speak With a Michigan Family Law Attorney
Although many parents are willing and eager to have their children spend time with their grandparents, this is not always the case. This can create conflict, which in turn can have an extremely negative effect on the family, so if you believe that you should have visitation with your grandchildren or are a parent that does not wish his or her children to see their grandparents, it is critical to speak with an attorney who can help resolve the issue. Please contact us today at Iafrate & Salassa by calling (586) 263-1600 or by sending us an email containing your contact information and a brief description of your case.