Grandparent Visitation - Published Opinion from Ky Supreme Court May 5, 2016

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MASSIE, ET AL. V. NAVY

“Questions Presented: Domestic Relations. Grandparent Visitation. Issues include the applicability of Walker v. Blair, 382 S.W.3d 862 (Ky. 2012) and the “modified best interests” standard when a child’s custodians are a paternal uncle and aunt.”

Maternal grandmother filed action for visitation against child’s aunt and uncle who had possession of the child, as well as biological  parents of child. The trial court denied grandmother’s request for visitation rights and she appealed.

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling denying visitation and remanded holding the trial court failed to consider all of the necessary factors under Kentucky law. The Court of Appeals used a less stringent standard than the clear and convincing standard set forth in Walker v. Blair, 382 S.W.3d 862 (Ky. 2012) because aunt and uncle were denying grandparent visitation not biological parents who did not respond to the court action.

Aunt and uncle were granted discretionary review by the Kentucky Supreme Court. The Supreme Court fist addresses the appropriate legal standard finding grandmother failed to preserve the issue for appeal. The “clear and convincing” standard was used in the trial court proceedings and grandmother failed to object.

Next the Supreme Court turns to the Court of Appeals holding that the trial court erred by failing to consider all of the factors under Kentucky law. Walker sets forth several factors for courts to utilize in determining whether or not grandparent visitation is in a child’s best interest, incorporating the U.S. Supreme Court case Troxel v. Grandville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000). The Supreme Court holds that all of the Walker factors need not be considered. As is the case here, where the trial court considers several relevant factors and denies grandparent visitation its factual findings are not clearly erroneous. Grandmother failed to directly challenge any of the trial court’s evidentiary rulings, therefore the Supreme Court reverses the Court of Appeals and reinstates the trial court’s order.

Digested by Elizabeth M. Howell

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