State Supreme Court Ruling Puts Parents, Grandparents On Equal Footing When Modifying Grandparent Visitation

Friday, September 06, 2013

A Tennessee Supreme Court ruling Friday clarified that parents and grandparents must satisfy the same legal standards in disputes over modifications to existing court-ordered grandparent visitation.

In the court’s unanimous opinion, a parent or grandparent asking a court to modify or terminate court-ordered grandparent visitation must prove that a material change in circumstances has occurred and that a modification or termination of grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interests.

The court reaffirmed earlier decisions that said parents are presumed to have superior parental rights in initial legal proceedings to determine grandparent visitation. The court also reiterated that, to overcome this presumption and obtain visitation, a grandparent must prove: (1) that parents oppose grandparent visitation; (2) that a child will suffer substantial harm if grandparent visitation is denied; and (3) that grandparent visitation is in a child’s best interest.

Friday’s opinion goes on to say that, while parents are afforded the opportunity in an initial proceeding to rely upon the presumption of superior parental rights, the principle does not continue to apply in later proceedings to modify or terminate that grandparent visitation.

In the case before the court, the grandparents received visitation through a court order that both parties agreed to. Not long after the order was filed with the court, the grandparents’ relationship with the child’s parents deteriorated. The grandparents asked the trial court to modify the visitation arrangement agreed to in court and grant them more time with the child.

The parents, in response, asked the trial court to end all grandparent visitation. The trial court declined to terminate grandparent visitation but also declined to increase significantly the grandparents’ visitation with the child. The trial court found that the decline in the parties’ relationship amounted to a material change in circumstances and that the best interests of the child required minor modifications of the previously agreed to visitation schedule.

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s judgment, concluding that the trial court should have taken into account the superior parental rights when considering the grandparents’ request to modify court-ordered visitation. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals, concluded that the trial court applied the correct standard, and reinstated the trial court’s judgment modifying the grandparent visitation arrangement.

The Supreme Court did not agree with portions of the trial court’s judgment finding the mother in contempt of the initial order for grandparent visitation and requiring her to pay a portion of the grandparents’ attorneys’ fees. The court cautioned that its decision should “in no way be understood as condoning the acrimonious and uncooperative relationship that has existed between” the parents and grandparents and urged them “to refocus on how best to foster the welfare of the child . . . and allow this goal to guide their future interactions with each other.”

To read the Neal Lovlace et al. v. Timothy Kevin Copley Opinion, authored by Justice Cornelia A. Clark, visit TNCourts.gov.


Man, 23, Who Had Spent Little Time In Local Jails Facing 57 Months In Federal Prison

A 23-year-old man who had picked up a number of criminal cases but spent little time in jail is now facing 57 months in federal prison. Judge Sandy Mattice sentenced Demarcus Heard on Tuesday afternoon. The sentencing range was 57-71 months, and the prosecution did not oppose the low end of the range. Attorney Joe DeGaetano said in the past that Heard had served "30 days here ... (click for more)

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report - And Mug Shots

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ADAMS, TINA DEANNE     512 ROGERS LANE TUNNEL HILL, 30755     43     Hamilton County          AGGRAVATED ASSAULT     LEAVING SCENE ACCIDENT DEATH OR PERSONAL INJURY     DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE     ... (click for more)

UAW Is Dropping Appeal Because Of Opposition

Let's tell the truth here: the UAW attempted infiltration of the Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tenn. a couple of years back and lost. They appealed to the NLRB three times and each time the vote went against the UAW more and more.   When you consider the local political opposition, citizenry and worker opposition, sentiment toward the UAW is even more staggering in Chattanooga ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Clemson Prayer And Much More

Clemson’s football program, which has won 11 games in each of the past two years and was ranked 8 th in the nation after whipping Ohio State in this year’s Orange Bowl, has just been “blind-sided.” The Freedom from Religion Foundation claims Coach Dabo Sweeney and his staff are doing far too much “to promote Christianity to their student athletes.” Clemson promptly roared back ... (click for more)

Donnie Tyndall Hired To Lead Tennessee Basketball Program

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- University of Tennessee vice chancellor and director of athletics Dave Hart announced Tuesday the hiring of Donnie Tyndall as the Volunteers’ 19 th  men’s basketball coach. Tyndall will be introduced at a press conference at 2 p.m. ET at Pratt Pavilion. The 43-year-old Tyndall joins Tennessee from Southern Mississippi, where he posted ... (click for more)

Cleveland, Thompson Knock Trojans Out Of Share Of 5-AAA Lead

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Cleveland right-hander Taylor Thompson sent Soddy-Daisy hitters a clear message early in Tuesday’s District 5-AAA baseball game – “I’m on tonight, boys.” Thompson threw a neat three-hitter and struck out 10 as the Blue Raiders defeated Soddy-Daisy, 6-1, at Raider Field to knock the Trojans out of a share of first place in the district. “If I get settled ... (click for more)