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One state cuts back on grandparents' rights in visitation cases

A recent high-court ruling from Kentucky in a family law case underscores both in Florida and elsewhere across the nation judicial scrutiny of grandparents' rights in child custody cases and courts' assessment of them in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2000.

That ruling held that parents have a constitutional right to raise their children without government interference. In its wake, a number of states are reassessing local law on custody and visitation where grandparents are concerned.

In the Kentucky case, that state's Supreme Court noted last week that it was compelled to revisit and overturn existing state law owing to the 2000 ruling. Prior to last week's decision, Kentucky law held that parents and grandparents were essentially equal when it came to evaluating a child's best interests.

That is now no longer true in that state, with the judicial presumption shifting strongly in favor of a parent involved in a court custody matter.

A grandparent in Kentucky must now show "clear and convincing" evidence that continued contact with a child is in that child's best interest.

"That is an awful high legal standard," noted on state court judge, who stated that the ruling gives "near-total authority" to parents.

One justice dissented, stating that the law should require only that a grandparent seeking a continuing relationship with a child be required to rebut the pro-parent presumption based on a preponderance of the evidence, which is a more easily met judicial standard.

Child custody and visitation disputes can be complex and emotional, especially where grandparents are concerned. An experienced family law attorney can provide further information and diligent representation in a custody matter.

Source: The Courier-Journal, "Kentucky Supreme Court weakens grandparents' rights to see grandchildren," Andrew Wolfson, Oct. 26, 2012

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