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Monday, December 03, 2007

Courts - "There is no such thing as grandparents' rights. A right is something you're entitled to. Therefore, there can't be grandparents' visitation rights,"

That is a quote from the mother's attorney after a successful Illinois Supreme Court ruling involving the child's grandmother. Here are quotes from an editorial yesterday in the Sauk Valley Newspapers (serving Dixon, Sterling and Rock Falls, Illinois). From the editorial:

Fair-minded Illinois grandparents should not take Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court ruling as anything other than what it is - an affirmation that the rights of responsible parents can't be trumped by something called "grandparents' rights."

The case pitted two Dixon women - Alice Henkel, the mother of a 4-year-old boy, and Cindy Flynn, the boy's paternal grandmother. Several factors complicated this relationship.

The boy's father, a convicted drug dealer, is serving a prison term for his second domestic battery case. The mother stated she is afraid of the father and was concerned about the environment her son would be subjected to while visiting the grandmother. Along with that, the mother stated the grandmother did not respect her religion and would not do things she asked with respect to the boy. As the disagreement developed, the mother chose not to allow her son to see his grandmother.

The grandmother, citing the state's grandparent visitation statute, petitioned the court two years ago seeking visitation rights. A local judge approved and then the appellate court upheld the grandmother's supposed right to have the grandson visit her in her home for three hours a month.

With Thursday's ruling, Supreme Court justices overturned those decisions. The court, which already had nullified the grandparent visitation law in 2002, reiterated parents' rights to raise their children as they see fit, except in the case of a child's physical, mental or emotional health being placed in jeopardy. * * *

As important as grandparent-grandchildren relationships are, they must meet with the parents' approval. They can't be forced upon unwilling parents by grandparents wielding a state law.

How did Illinois pass a grandparent visitation law in the first place? Perhaps the rise of irresponsible parents and the added responsibilities on grandparents' shoulders helped sway lawmakers' minds. It also might be a commentary on the age of certain legislators who passed the original law. Maybe there were more grandparents than parents in the bunch.

Regardless, Supreme Court justices made the right decision. The rights of responsible parents should be respected.

The 7-page opinion, Flynn v. Henkel (Nov. 29, 2007) is available here. Thanks to How Appealing for the links.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 3, 2007 02:42 PM
Posted to Courts in general