Where Do Grandparents Stand in Alabama?
The Alabama legislature enacted the Alabama Grandparent Visitation Act (Ala.Code 1975, § 30-3-4.1) so that grandparents would have the right to be a part of their grandchildren’s lives in situations where the parents were blocking access to the children. The Act gives grandparents the right to sue for visitation rights where either or both parents have denied it, and a judge may grant such visitation over the parents’ objection if it is in the best interests of the child.
This is just what a Jefferson County judge did in a case brought before the court in 2007. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, however, reversed the trial court’s decision in E.H.G. v. E.R.G.
because the grandparents had not proven “by clear and convincing evidence” that to deny visitation to the grandparents would cause substantial harm to the children. So it is not enough according to the court to show that visitation is in the child’s best interest; grandparents must go further and prove that it would be harmful to the kids not to allow visitation.
On June 10, 2011, the Supreme Court of Alabama upheld the Appeals Court decision, but for a different reason. This court held that the Act is unconstitutional because allowing a court to award visitation to a grandparent – even “in the best interests of the child” – over the objection of a parent’s wishes violates the “fundamental right of a fit parent to direct the upbringing of his or her child.”
This case was appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided not to hear the case when it denied the writ of certiorari on February 21, 2012. This means that the Alabama decision is the current state of the law, and the Alabama Grandparent Visitation Act remains declared unconstitutional. Until the legislature amends the current law, grandparents who are being denied a relationship with their grandchildren may have a difficult time trying to enforce a legal right to meaningful access to their grandkids.
With offices in Arab, Albertville, and Guntersville, The Hawkins Law Firm handles family law matters including grandparent rights issues throughout Marshall County and surrounding areas. If you have a grandparent’s rights issue or other family law matter, contact The Hawkins Law firm to discuss your case with a caring, compassionate and capable family law attorney.