Legal Memo

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MEMORANDUM

TO:

FROM:

DATE:February 23, 2006

RE:Sonny and Wanda Dawson: Grandparents’ visitation rights

Issue

Under Alabama law, do grandparents have any visitation rights to their grandchildren?

Brief Answer

Yes. Grandparents are allowed visitation rights with their grandchildren depending on the situation of the parents.

Facts

Our clients Sonny and Wanda Dawson are seeking visitation rights for their two year old grandson, Shane. Their son and daughter-in-law, John and Marie Dawson have been married for four years. They do not allow John’s parents, (Sonny and Wanda) to see Shane. Sonny and Wanda Dawson claim that John and Marie are having marital problems and should be filing for divorce in the near future. Little Shane requests to see his grandparents, his parents will not allow him to see them. Sonny and Wanda are now seeking visitation rights in order to see their grandson, Shane.

Discussion

A number of states, including Alabama, have enacted laws granting grandparents standing to seek visitation with their grandchildren in certain situations. In the case of Weathers v. Compton, 723 So. 2d 1284 (Ala. Civ. App. 1998) contains some of the history of how grandparents’ visitation rights came to be.

Legislative efforts to foster relationships between grandparents and grandchildren have not been universally acclaimed. In Moriarty v. Brandt, 177 N.J. 84, 109, 827 A. 2d 203, 218 (2003), courts that have assessed the constitutional application of their states’ grandparental-visitation statutes have typically “engaged in one or two modes of analysis: 1) interpreting the statutes to require satisfaction of harm standard in order to overcome the presumption in favor of a fit parents’ decision or 2) avoiding the articulation of any standard at all and analyzing the statutes on a case-by-case basis.”

Conclusion

The facts and law show that Sonny and Wanda Dawson are allowed visitation to their grandson....
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