A recent case of Stuard v. Stuard awarded grandparents visitation over parents’ objections. Matthew and Rebekah were the parents of Riley. The paternal grandparents were Jeff and Cindy. Jeff retired shortly after the birth of Riley and relocated closer to his son’s family and they came to care for Riley quite a bit and a deep bond formed over the years. In 2008, Matthew and Rebekah separated and ultimately divorced. However, Jeff would continue to pick up Riley after school and provide for her care. In fact, the grandparents would see even more of Riley as they watched Riley during the parent’s custody time while they were at work. In 2009, Matthew moved in with Jeff and Cindy which provided them even more time with Riley in that they would get her ready for school, take her to school and pick her up after school, attend school activities and sports activities.
After a while, things began to go south and the relationship between Matthew and his parents deteriorated to the extent that Jeff had to ask his son to move out and thereafter, Jeff and Cindy’s interaction with Riley became less and less. Not being able to see Riley through Matthew, they contacted Rebekah and made arrangements to spend time with Riley. This lasted for a bit until Matthew learned of the tactic and discussed it with Rebekah. Rebekah, not wanting to get in the middle, told Jeff and Cindy to work it out with Matthew. Jeff and Cindy filed their Petition for grandparent visitation in January 2013. At trial, a reporting mediator informed the trial court that Riley very much enjoyed spending time with her grandparents. Further at trial, Rebekah testified that she respected Matthew as a parent and his decision and that if the grandparents did not like or respect what she had to say about her child and were going to do what they wanted, then they could not be around Riley.
The trial court granted Jeff and Cindy visitation under Family Code, Section 3104, and found that by “clear and convincing evidence”, there was a preexisting relationship between Riley and her grandparents, and visitation was in Riley’s best interest; and when balanced against the rights of the parents to exercise their parental control, Riley’s best interest prevailed and awarded the grandparents a visitation plan, a summer vacation schedule, and some holiday time. On appeal, the court stated that Family Code, Section 3104, provides for “a rebuttable presumption affecting the burden of proof that the visitation of a grandparent is not in the best interest of a minor child” should the parents object to grandparents visiting, and this provision protects parental rights; but such parental rights to deny visitation is not absolute nor immune from judicial review and do not extend to denying a child’s best interest in preserving an important and continuing relationship with grandparents.