Earlier this month, we posted news on Facebook that GDWG family law attorneys David C. Gagne and Achille C. Scache achieved a significant victory in the Delaware Supreme Court when the Supreme Court ruled that the Family Court had abused its discretion in awarding grandparents supervised contact with their grandchildren over the parents’ objection. Most of our friends on Facebook were very happy to hear that Mr. Gagne and Mr. Scache were able to win a victory on behalf of the parents in this case. Some, however, wondered in the comments section of our post, what could a couple grandparents do in order to get their visitation revoked from seeing their grand kids? For those interested, the decision can be found here and we should point out the pseudonyms are used in the decision to protect the identities of the parties. Without getting into all of the details, it was found that the grandparents (parents of father) had been at times intrusive, overbearing and downright nasty in their relationship with their son and his wife over many years
From the decision:
Here, in the case before us, grandparents petitioned for third-party visitation rights, and the parents objected. The Family Court essentially found the parents’ objections were not unreasonable. The grandparents had attacked the parents on social media, disparaged their parenting abilities, demoralized their son (the father), and sought to meddle in the parents’ relationships with their children. Nonetheless, the court awarded the grandparents the right to visitation in a “supervised, therapeutic setting.”7 The court believed that visitation in such a controlled environment, and under the supervision of a trained professional, would minimize the parents’ concerns and render their objections “clearly unreasonable.”8
Understand that the Court in the State of Delaware effectively views a grandparent nearly the same as any other third party petitioning for visitation of a child.
Under Delaware’s Third Party Visitation statute, 13 Del. C. § 2412 (“Section 2412”), when a parent objects to a third party’s request for visitation, “the parent’s determination of the child’s best interest will prevail unless the nonparent seeking visitation proves that: (1) visitation is in the child’s best interest; (2) the parent’s objections are unreasonable by clear and convincing evidence; and (3) visitation will not substantially interfere with the parent-child relationship by a preponderance of the evidence.”
In this case Mr. Gagne and Mr. Scache argued that the behavior of the grandparents had and would continue to interfere with the parent-child relationship. Furthermore, it was our contention that the parents’ objections were not unreasonable regardless of supervised visitation.
From the decision:
However, the record provides no basis for supporting the conclusion that supervised, therapeutic visitation would adequately address the reasonable objections of the parents. Further, the grandparents here presented no evidence to support a finding that supervised, therapeutic visitation would not substantially interfere with the parent-child relationship […] Having reviewed this record, we cannot conclude that having someone in the room to referee Grandparents’ actions and proclivity for engaging in inappropriate behavior would adequately address Parents’ reasonable concerns about interference with their parent-child relationships.
It is rare for Family Court decisions to make it to the Delaware Supreme Court. There is no question that there is plenty of hurt feelings to go around in cases such as these. The most important piece is that the best interest of the children is protected. In this case, the Court found that third party visitation would have interfered with the parent-child relationship and thus would not have been in the best interest of the children involved.