A British grandmother who wanted to assert some grandparent rights for her grandchild, fought local authorities after a recommendation that the baby be put up for adoption. She won, and now the child is in her custody.
In Britain, the parents of the child were unable to look after the baby, and the paternal grandmother put herself forward to be the special guardian, a role similar to foster care.
The grandparent rights case, heard in Britain last month, raises questions about the challenges faced by families trying hold on to children as special guardians for their relatives’ children – mostly grandparents.
Florida Grandparent Visitation
I’ve written about grandparent rights to visitation several times. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Troxel v. Granville, held that the Due Process Clause protects the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.
So, as long as a parent is adequately caring for his or her child, there will normally be no reason for the state to inject itself into the private realm of the family. The basic presumption in Troxel is that fit parents act in the best interests of their children.
However, the Troxel court did not hold that the Due Process Clause requires a showing of harm or potential harm to the child as a condition to granting rights of visitation. That is a Florida law.
Instead, the U.S. Supreme Court left those decisions for the states to decide on a case-by-case basis.
It surprises many Floridians – because of the large percentage of grandparents here – but grandparent don’t have visitation rights here.
Grandparent rights to custody and time-sharing do not really exist in Florida without showing harm to the child; otherwise, it is deemed to violate parents’ privacy.
British Grandparent Battle
The grandparent rights case involved a professional who works with children, initially received what the judge described as “very positive and full assessments” about her suitability as a caregiver.
However, more than five months after care proceedings began it was followed by a second negative report who questioned her commitment. At this point, the social work team recommended that the baby instead be put up for adoption.
When the case came to court, the judge ordered that the grandmother should become the baby’s special guardian after all.
Describing the hearing, the judge said the grandmother had “expressed profound dissatisfaction about the way in which she had been assessed and treated”.
The protracted battle has meant the baby only recently joined the grandmother after a long stay in foster care.
The judge paid tribute to the grandmother as “an intelligent and courteous woman” who had “put herself out considerably to offer her grandchild the opportunity of being cared for within the natural family”.
The Buzzfeed article on grandparent rights is here.