Trial Court Grandparent Visitation Ruling Reversed In Re Camryne B

Tennessee law provides much deference to bioligical parental decision making as it relates to children. As such, when a Tennessee court hears a case involving grandparent visitation Grandparent Visitation rights, it must perform a comprehensive analysis per statute. First, the grandparent seeking the court’s intervention must show that one of six situations exists pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated  36-6-306:

  1. The father or mother of an unmarried minor child is deceased;
  2. The child’s father and mother are divorced, legally separated, or were never married to each other;
  3. The child’s father or mother has been missing for not less than six (6) months;
  4. The court of another state has ordered grandparent visitation;
  5. The child resided in the home of the grandparent for a period of twelve (12) months or more and was subsequently removed from the home by the parent or parents (this grandparent-grandchild relationship establishes a rebuttable presumption that denial of visitation may result in irreparable harm to the child);
  6. Or  the child and the grandparent maintained a significant existing relationship for a period of twelve (12) months or more immediately preceding severance of the relationship, this relationship was severed by the parent or parents for reasons other than abuse or presence of a danger of substantial harm to the child, and severance of this relationship is likely to occasion substantial emotional harm to the child.

Additionally, the court must determine whether there is a danger of substantial harm to the child if the child does not have visitation with the grandparent pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated  36-6-307.

The facts of the In Re Camryne B. case are as follows: Melisa I. (Mother) and Andrew B. (Father) are the parents of Camryne B (Child). Mother and Father were never married. Celeste B. (Grandmother) and Albert B. (Grandfather), (collectively Grandparents) are the paternal grandmother and paternal step-grandfather of Camryne B. The Mother had another child who was legally adopted by the Paternal Grandparents. Disagreements and hostilities developed between Mother and Father and the Paternal Grandparents, and Mother and Father decided it was in Child’s best interest not to have further visitation with Paternal Grandparents. The Paternal Grandparents filed a petition for grandparent and sibling visitation.

The trial court awarded paternal Grandparents visitation with Child every third weekend as well as telephone contact every other Sunday. The Mother and Father quickly appealed the trial court’s ruling arguing that the trial court erred in awarding Grandparents visitation under Tennessee Code Annotated 36-6-306.

The Tennessee Appellate Court concluded the following:

In the present case, the trial court failed to adhere to the required statutory analysis. There was no finding that there was a danger of substantial harm to Child. Rather, the trial court based its decision largely upon the need to maintain the relationship between Child and her half-sister, which is a consideration not authorized under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-306. Moreover, the record in this case does not contain evidence that Child was in danger of substantial harm due to the cessation of the relationship with Grandparents. Mother and Father presented evidence that Child is a well-adjusted child who was not suffering serious emotional harm and that Mother and Father had sound reasons for terminating her relationship with Grandmother. To order grandparent visitation without a finding of substantial harm violates Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-306 and the fundamental right of parents to raise their children as they see fit.

The Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s award of grandparent visitation.

Child custody and visitation disputes within a family are not uncommon and can get messy. Grandparents and parents both have rights under Tennessee law, but to realize and optimize your legal rights, the services of a competent family law attorney is paramount. Contact Donna Wagner to schedule a consultation.

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