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Grandmother Denied Visits With Deceased Son’s Child

Courts typically grant grandparent visits over a parent’s objection only in compelling cases. They interpret the law to require a very high “standard of proof” before they overrule a parent’s wishes.
Carol’s son and Rochelle made a baby in 2006, but couldn’t get along Finally, Dad got a court to rule that he was the parent and give him visitation rights , supervised by his mother. Sadly, Dad died in 2010, so Carol asked the court to grant visitation rights between her and her grandchild. Rochelle was not happy with that, especially since Carol claimed Rochelle was responsible for her son’s death. After a lengthy trial, the court denied Carol’s child visitation request, based on complex reasoning.
The Family Code (Section 3102) only says that when a parent is deceased, relatives can be granted visitation when the court finds it to be in the best interests of the child. However, courts say that creates a presumption in favor of a fit parent’s decision to deny visits to relatives. This case says relatives must show not just that visits would be good for the child, but also that not getting visits would be detrimental. Finally, the court went beyond that, and said that the relatives must show that denying child visitation would be bad by “clear and convincing” evidence, a standard just under the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard needed in criminal cases.
It is hard to imagine what sort of evidence relatives could produce about denial of visits being detrimental to the child when the relatives have no access to the child, much less how they could amass “clear and convincing” evidence. Effectively, unless the child was raised by relatives, this case gives the surviving parent almost absolute veto power over any visitation rights whatsoever. (Rich v. Thatcher, 200 CA4th 1176.)