Grayson v. Grayson, Ky COA, Grandparent Visitation

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Grayson v. Grayson, 2009-CA-001963-ME

Issue:  Judgment granting grandparents limited visitation over objection of children’s parents reversed.

Published:  Reversed

County:  Mason

 

Stephanie and Shane Grayson and their two minor children appealed from a judgment of the Mason Circuit Court granting June Grayson, paternal grandmother of the children, limited grandparent visitation despite the vehement objection of the children’s parents.

 

The evidence revealed Grandmother’s extreme vitriol toward the children’s parents as well as the fact that they did not want their children to have any contact with Grandmother.  They did not attempt to restrict the children’s contact with their paternal Grandfather or other family members.

 

The testimony revealed that Mother and Father were fit parents.  The Court of Appeals cited Vibbert v. Vibbert, 144 S.W.3d 242 (Ky. App. 2004), which held that the decisions of fit parents must be given deference by the Courts, and Courts must presume that decisions of fit parents are made in the child’s best interest.  The Court reviewed the factors set out in Vibbert and concluded that in this case the detriment of normal visitation outweighs its benefits.

 

Grandmother relied on language in King v. King, 828 S.W.2d 630 (Ky. 1992) suggesting that a family quarrel of little significance should not disrupt the grandparent/grandchild relationship.  In this case, however, the Court acknowledged that the relationships are “totally fractured” and “very little contact is appropriate in the children’s best interest.”

 

The guardian ad litem testified that if grandparent visitation was denied, there would be no harm resulting to the children, but if the visitation was granted, it would “endanger this happy family;” and therefore Court imposed visitation was not recommended.

 

Despite the evidence, the trial court granted Grandmother 2 visits a year, one in December and one in July, for four hours each, to be supervised by the children’s father and one neutral party.  KRS 405.021 gives trial courts authority to require grandparent visitation if “it determines that it is in the best interest of the child to do so.”  The statute imposes upon grandparent seeking visitation the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that such visitation is in the best interest of the children.

   

The Court of Appeals acknowledged the trial court’s effort to “preserve a thread in the torn fabric of this family,” but held that this was not a discretionary ruling.  The trial court was required to apply KRS 405.021 and determine by clear and convincing evidence whether visitation was affirmatively proven to be in the children’s best interest.  Applying that standard, the CA concluded the trial court erred as a matter of law in its conclusions and judgment and reversed the judgment.

 

Digested by Sandra G. Ragland, Diana L. Skaggs + Associates

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