Monday, January 20, 2014

Grandparent Visitation

In our state, the courts have granted grandparent visitation in cases where the grand child's parent (and child of the grandparent) had died or been incarcerated. Sometime in the course of a divorce, grandparents can petition the court for visitation if their child has become the noncustodial parent.

None of these situations applied on my case.

The way the statute is currently worded is that the court must assume that the parent's decision regarding grandparent visitation is in the grandchild's best interest and the court must give that consideration special weight.

However, the court can override a parent's decision if: visitation has been denied or unreasonably limited, visitation is in the best interest of the child (ahhh the vague "best interest of the child" gets tossed in here), or the grandparents can prove that the parent is not acting in the best interest of the child. So, my parents had to prove that I was not doing what was best for my son. The court would also consider if a "substantial relationship" between grandchild and grandparent had been established.

It's kind of a frightening idea. If a grandparent frequently babysits a grandchild, and then that situation changes, the grandparent could sue for visitation rights. If adult children move into their parent's home for a short time, the grandchildren might form a substantial relationship with their grandparents and when the parents move out, grandma can sue to make sure she maintains her precious milk and cookie time with her grandchildren.

Seems ridiculous, doesn't it? No grandparent would ever really do something like that.

Hopefully not. But then why have a statute worded that way? Because a grandparent just might go for it. Maybe they disagree with how their grandchild is being raised. Maybe they disagree with the religious choices of their children and feel like they need to save their grandchildren. Whatever the case may be, this statute gives grandparents the right to sue their own children with very little cause.

It's ridiculous, you must be thinking. Who cares if there's a law like this? No one will really use it inappropriately. What parent would ever sue their own child?

But they would. It happened to me.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Enter the New Husband

After living with my parents for five years, I started dating my current husband. He had recently divorced and our relationship started out as friends commiserating. It slowly developed into more than that. We married about a year and a half later.

My parents were not happy with the decision. I stood and listened to them telling me why it would be a mistake to marry him. Their arguments consisted of the fact that he was divorced, had three kids and a hefty child support payment and an unpleasant ex wife. I understood all of these things. They were valid points and complications I knew I would be taking on. I tried to reassure them and heard out all of their arguments. I understood that my parents had scars from my divorce. They didn't want to see me get hurt again.

After weighing everything for a very long time, I made my decision. My parents attended the wedding but made their disapproval clear. I had hoped that they would come around in time, that they would come to see what I saw in him. My parents disliked my sister's husband at first. After a couple of years, they came around.

For the first time in six years, I was very happy. I had fallen in love, moved into a house of my own and was moving on with my life.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Temporary Orders for Grandparent Visitation

Before we even had a chance to respond to my parents' first petition for visitation, they filed a second request: temporary grandparent visitation. Basically, they were asking for a visitation schedule while the judge decided if a permanent schedule should be set up or not. Temporaray visitation can be seen as a foothold. Especially when judges are considering "best interest of the child." If a case comes before a judge regarding visitation that is already taking place, the judge is most likely to rule that the visitation continue because it's what the child is used to (unless the person is on drugs or is abusive or is in prision or something extreme like that).

My parents proposed the following schedule:

Once a month Friday evening until Saturday evening, one telephone call per week for at least 10 minutes (keep in mind my son was only six at the time), and the ability to provide any gift they'd like to their grandson.

The whole thing sickened me. The idea that the court could possibly rule in their favor and tell me what I had to do with my son infuriated me.

Would the court rule in their favor?

Monday, December 2, 2013

The First Time in Court with my Parents

The first time I stepped foot in a courtroom with my parents, we were allies, not enemies.

My divorce was uncontested and completed over the internet. At first my ex didn't have any interest in our son. I agreed to refuse child support while he quietly slipped away from our lives. A few months later, he summoned me to court to establish visitation.

This began a two year sporadic legal battle between me and my ex over visitation. Through this stressful time, my parents supported me financially and emotionally. And in the end, I suppose we "won." More accurately, my ex got remarried and lost interest.

I wonder if this first experience somehow laid the groundwork for the legal action my parents took against me later. They learned about a weapon. They watched my fear and anxiety as I stood before commissioners, mediators, judges, undergoing depositions and becoming helpless as those in authority determined my and my son's fate.

It was a dark time for me. While my parents comforted and supported me, they were also learning about how to hurt me most . . . Should they need it in the future.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Petition For Grandparent Visitation

Shortly after we got our lawyer, we received the official petition for grandparent visitation. My parents claimed that during the six years after my divorce, they had established a "substantial emotional relationship" with my son. They also claimed that after I married, their "access" to my son had been unreasonably limited. So, they requested court-ordered grandparent visitation. Oh, and they wanted us to pay thier attorney's fees.

They then attached exhibit A, a lengthy document, a timeline, their proof for the needed court ordered visitation. It recapped about 9 years of our relationship and drama. They put their spin on everything and tried to make the events somehow accusatory. They made some unfavorable accusations about me and my husband. It was all hard to read.

I went through the grief cycle every time we got more court papers from them. First denial, "I can't believe they are really doing this. Are they really going to continue?" Sadness, "How can they say things like this about me and my husband and shove it under the nose of some judge? Why would they want to hurt me like this?" Then the rage, "I will counter every single one of their ridiculous arguments. I'll fight them every step of the way and they will lose. They will lose everything."

I'm not sure I ever really made it to acceptance early on. I just rode the merry-go-round of emotion and denial. I still couldn't believe that my parents would really do this.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How Did I End Up Here?

How did I end up engaged in a court battle with my parents? It was a long road. I don't know that I can pinpoint an exact date when the conflict began. But before it started, the stage had to be set. I guess the scene, props and characters began populating the stage around the time my son was born.

I was first married in January of 1999. The marriage was rocky and my husband struggled with a sexual addiction that largely contributed to the dissolution of our marriage. But before the marriage ended, I gave birth to my son in the summer of 2001. I left my husband that fall after he claimed that he no longer wanted to fight his addiction, that he was doing things to make me leave, and his unwillingness to get a job. I had already quit my job and had a six-week-old baby. I was emotional and at a very low point in my life. So I turned to my parents for help.

They very generously opened their doors to me. While I so appreciated having some place to go, it was a little demoralizing returning to the same bedroom where I'd spent all of my elementary, junior and high school days. I was grateful. They were willing to support me and my son financially until he was a little older and I could work and support myself.

So that's how it all began--a loving gesture of parents helping their daughter.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Looking Back: My Childhood

I can't say that my parents were rotten. They never beat me or neglected me. They fed and clothed and loved me. They were pretty involved and we were a pretty tight-knit family. I was the oldest, and had one younger sister.

We took camping trips when we were young and played card games when we were older. We talked and laughed together a lot. They supported both my sister and me in our pursuits.

They weren't perfect and made mistakes, what parent doesn't? But there really wasn't a precedence set for their future court action against me, which I think that was one of the reasons the whole thing shocked and hurt me so deeply.