Whether grandparents have a right to grandparent time has always been a controversial political question. On June 13, 2017, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued a published opinion, Geering v. King et. al., Docket No. 335794, granting two fit parents the power to deny grandparents time with their grandchildren. The parents were part of a lengthy, very adversarial divorce which entailed them fighting relentlessly over the custody of the minor children with multiple hearings over the course of a few years. The maternal grandparents complained that they were being excluded from their grandchildren’s lives and sought grandparent time from the courts, as they were only allowed to see their grandchildren on a sporadic basis. The parents were unable to agree on almost every decision involving the minor children, however, when it came to time with the grandparents, the biological parents joined forces to object to the grandparent time request.
The Court of Appeals held that fit parents should be able to decide whether or not the grandparents are involved in their children’s life.
However, parents have a constitutionally protected right to raise their children as they see fit, . . . ., and we cannot deprive them of this constitutionally protected right simply because we, as bystanders who are not intimately involved in the parents’ or the children’s lives, do not agree with a decision made by the parents. It may well be that the parents’ decision to alter the relationship that the children, Robinson, and his wife shared negatively impacted the children, but that is not the inquiry, and it is simply not the judiciary’s role to make such a decision for two otherwise fit parents.
This case has made it clear, if you have two fit parents objecting to time with the grandparents, the courts will not award time with the grandparents.
Torree J. Breen is the chair of the Family Law Practice Group and is a member of the firm’s Litigation and Hospitality and Alcohol Law Practice Groups. Ms. Breen specializes in family law which includes divorce, child custody disputes, prenuptial agreements, and grandparent’s rights.
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