In Ed H. v. Ashley C. (August 24, 2017)
In affirmance, Fourth District holds that great-grandparents lack standing to seek visitation with great-grandchildren because Fam §§3103 and 3104 do not apply to great-grandparents.
Facts of the case:
Ashley C and Zachary H have two children during their marriage, and all four of them live with Zachary’s grandparents from 2009 until 2013. The great-grandparents of the children, Ed and Yvonne, assisted Ashley in raising the kids until they moved out in July of 2013, and continued to visit them after they moved out as well. In September of 2013, Ashley filed for divorce. The trial court awarded Ashley with sole physical and legal custody of the kids, and allowed reasonable visitation for Zachary. Not long after in early 2015, Zachary threatened Ashley, which resulted in a DVP restraining order against him, and his visitation to be terminated.
In December of the same year, the great-grandparents Ed and Yvonne filed a petition for great-grandparent visitation under Fam C §§3100, 3102, 3103, and 3104. They claimed that this visitation would be in the kids best interest, considering they have already developed a close relationship with the kids and vice versa. Ashley responds by outlining how these visits would be problematic, since Zachary still has a restraining order agains him and had recently moved into his grandparents house and sates any contact with their father would not be in the kids best interest. She also included mention of Zachary’s drug habits and how Ed and Yvonne enable that environment in their home, which is not an environment conducive to raising children. She finally stated that the great-grandparents lacked standing to seek visitation under those certain statues because they were not the grandparents, but the great-grandparents. They contested that they could seek visitation as non parents and de facto parents, but the courts ultimately side with Ashley.
Rulings of the case:
The justices found that Ed and Yvonne’s claim that the term “grandparents” could be extended to great-grandparents was not feasible and they also doubted that the previous Legislature would have excluded specific language if it wasn’t in their intentions. They also turn to the Webster dictionary which defines grandparent as “a parent’s parent, or a parent of one’s father and mother”. In reviewing this evidence, the justices found in unlikely the law should be extended to also include great-grandparents. The justices also found the statutes which Ed and Yvonne claimed, actually didn’t apply to their circumstance. Fam C §3102 only applies in circumstances where the child’s parents are deceased, Fam C §3103 because Ashley had already been awarded sole custody, and already went over great-grandparents not included in grandparents, invalidating their claim to Fam C §3104 as well. Finally, the justices agree with the trial courts findings, that Ed and Yvonne lacked sufficient standing to seek visitation. They lastly noted that the Ed and Yvonne’s claim as de facto parents also falls through, because the custody rights of the parents were not an issue.
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Hogoboom & King, Cal. Practice Guide: Family Law (The Rutter Group) 4:7.1