Grandparent visitation rights have long been given a special preference in Kentucky family law. Frequently, most often for very good reason, parents will deny grandparents access to grandchildren for lengthy periods, sometimes for years. When this occurs, emotional trauma obviously occurs in all of the affected households; it is typically a decision that parents do not undertake lightly.
Even in light of these realities, for many years, our family and appellate courts have clearly stated that there are policy preferences for extending the bond between parents and grandchildren, all while balancing those policy preferences with a clear mandate of the US Supreme Court that gives greater weight to the decisions of a fundamentally fit parent. Even then, however, there have been some uncertainties in how these matters, all of which are very specifically fact driven, are to be decided.
Just this past week, the Kentucky Supreme Court clarified the standards to be employed in a matter springing from Louisville, in a case involving a horrific set of facts. In a case involving reprehensible accusations by paternal grandparents against a biological mother following the suicide of their son, the biological mother understandably terminated their access to grandchildren. The Court reversed and remanded the matter back to the trial court, directing the court to hold a new hearing to require that grandparents rebut the decisions of a presumably fit parent only by clear and convincing evidence. In reaching its determination, the court must consider the following factors:
1) the nature and stability of the relationship between the child and the grandparent seeking visitation;
2) the amount of time the grandparent and child spent together;
3) the potential detriments and benefits to the child from granting visitation;
4) the effect granting visitation would have on the child's relationship with the parents;
5) the physical and emotional health of all the adults involved, parents and grandparents alike;
6) the stability of the child's living and schooling arrangements; and
7) the wishes and preferences of the child.
8) the motivation of the adults participating in the grandparent visitation proceedings.
This decision clarified issues by stating a clear set of standards - while narrowing the window on grandparent visitation claims, a qualified family law attorney will be able to argue a stronger case according to an objective set of standards.