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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Michigan Supreme Court to Decide Grandparents Rights Case

By:  Timothy P. Flynn

In mid-January, the Michigan Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Porter v Hill, a case we've been following in this blog, involving the rights of grandparents to see their grandchildren.  The grandparents in this case have not been allowed to conduct visitation of their two grandchildren because, prior to his death, their son   -the biological father of the children-  had his parental rights terminated; now the mother does not allow them contact with the kids.

This sad case hinges on the statutory definition of the term "grandparents".  The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in Mother's favor that because the deceased biological father's rights were terminated, he was not a "legal parent" of the children thus, the paternal grandparents did not have standing under the grandparenting statute.

The lawyer for the grandparents, Phillip L. Ellison, asserted that the word "grandparents" is not a term of art but rather, a word with a very specific statutory definition.  Ellison argued to the justices that the family court and Court of Appeals improperly carved-out an exception to the statute by disallowing these grandparents to bring their case to the family court for a determination of the merits of their claim.

When asked by Justice Mary Beth Kelly whether he was asking the High Court to simply ignore the fact that the father's rights to the children had been terminated, Ellison stated:
No, I would have you look at what the Legislature has specifically directed.  That is, a grandparent is a natural parent of the natural parent.  The legal status of that parent is irrelevant when it comes to who has standing to ask for a grandparenting-time order.
We here at the Law Blogger agree.  It just doesn't feel right to us to have a grandparent's rights to visit with their biological grandchildren foreclosed due to the abuse or neglect of their son or daughter.

A decision from the Michigan Supreme Court will come before the end of their term in June; stay tuned all you grandparents out there.

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