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Court Rules on Grandparent’s Rights


Bonnie Belair and Jarret Clark divorced with Ms. Belair having sole custody of their minor child. This was finalized in 1997. Mr. Clark was given limited visitation rights once he completes the parenting class that was ordered by the court. After this decision by the court, Mary Francis Drew, the child’s paternal grandmother, petitioned the court to get visitation rights. They cited the law that grants grandparent’s visitation rights in certain circumstances. By February 1999, Ms. Belair submitted her petition to the Trial Court saying that the statute violates her constitutional right to privacy.

The Trial Court refused to deliver a verdict about the constitutional challenge that was placed by Ms. Belair. They gave temporary visitation rights to Ms. Drew, which was also to be in the same place as agreed in the mediation. What Ms. Belair did was to submit a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court. A writ of certiorari is an order made by a higher court about a case that they have reviewed, said a New York Family Lawyer. Ms. Belair’s petition said that because the Trial Court did not rule on the constitutionality of the grandparent visitation law, her right to privacy was violated.

In the decision of the Supreme Court, they cited the case of Beagle vs. Beagle. It was said in that case that the state “may not intrude upon the parents’ fundamental right to raise their children except in cases where the child is threatened with harm.” They also said that in the same case, the court said that the best interest of the child is placed first even before there is proof of harm. The privacy that is to be expected should be no less than the one experienced while married. The question now is if the court has the right to decide whether to impose visitation rights on a parent who does not want it. The Supreme Court acknowledges that “care custody and management” is a fundamental liberty interest of a parent. The court said as well that the choice which relates to child rearing and education are fundamental rights covered by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The state does not have the right to interfere with these decisions, unless there is a compelling reason to do so. In this case, the Supreme Court granted certiorari, and they reversed the decision of the Trial Court.

In any case regarding visitation or child custody, the child should always be put first. Everyone can agree that the well being of the child supersedes any other concern or issue of different parties. This welfare is also protected by law, and they make sure that the law is followed.

If you are a party in a visitation rights case, and you want to make sure your rights as well as the child’s is protected, contact have Stephen Bilkis and Associates. They will provide you with options as to how to be able to see your child or make sure their lives are not disrupted by someone else trying to see them. Whether you have a custody concern, paternity issue or need an order for protection, we will promptly and professionally provide the legal guidance you need.

We have offices Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Manhattan in New York. In Long Island, we are in Suffolk County and Nassau County, as well as in Westchester County. We will provide you with legal assistance and see to it your rights and your child’s rights protected. Call us today at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW for free consultation.

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