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Grandparent Visitation Denied After Elephant Tramples Mother

After Linda’s tragic death, Peter didn’t want her parents to see the children. The trial court didn’t agree with Peter, but that court was overruled on appeal.

Raised in South Africa, Linda claimed she had been molested and raped by her father as a child. She went through extensive therapy, sometimes accusing her father and sometimes saying such claims were lies. After she met and married Peter in San Diego, they had two children. She was reluctant to let her parents have time with her daughters, but relented when they gave her $128,000. Tragically, while back in Africa trying to re-connect with her childhood, she was trampled and killed by an elephant. Peter needed help from his in-laws to collect on a large insurance policy Linda had set up for the girls, and things went well for a while.

However, Peter started dating, and then one of the girls started acting out in a sexualized way. Peter decided he wanted nothing more to do with his in-laws, and he especially wanted to protect his daughters from their grandfather. A mediator recommended monthly visits between the girls and their grandmother, and then another recommended allowing unsupervised visits with the grandfather. A trial judge heard the case and allowed unsupervised visits. That order was stayed, however, pending appeal.

On appeal, the court reviewed existing cases, beginning with the U.S. Supreme Court case, Troxel v Granville (530 U.S. 57), and discussing various California cases. The court decided that the law gives great weight to a parent’s authority, and said that a court could only override a parent’s wishes when there was clear and convincing evidence that the requested visitation was in the children’s best interests. In other words, the surviving parent has the legal authority to cut the grandparents out of the children’s lives, and the grandparents, if they object, have to prove that doing so was bad for the children.

Other than situations where the grandparents actually raised the child for a substantial time, not very many cases will meet that standard. In this case, the court decided that even though the alleged molestation was not proved, Peter was not unreasonable in taking no chances, and was entitled to keep the grandparents out of his daughters’ lives.

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