At first glance Emma looks like every other 7 year old girl. But Emma is actually a victim of child abuse. The perpetrator of this abuse is not someone hiding in the dark waiting to grab her as she walks by. Emma’s mother is the perpetrator, and her abuse occurs daily and will leave lifetime scars.
Emma’s plight began three years ago when her father died. Kevin was serving our country at the time of his untimely death. He was much too young, only in his mid-twenties, and his death left a giant hole in Emma’s heart as well as the heart of other family members. Prior to his death Kevin and Emma’s mother had divorced. Kevin was stationed in another state and was unable to exercise his regular visitation rights, so he delegated these rights to his parents, Emma’s grandparents. They enjoyed wonderful times with Emma for several years. Emma spent weekends, holidays, extended summer breaks
and other appointed times with her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and her new half-brother. The family formed deep and strong bonds and created wonderful memories, the kind of bonds and memories that most of us can cherish for a lifetime.
Tragically, the crushing news of Kevin’s death was followed by another devastating loss. Emma’s mother informed Kevin’s family that Emma would never be allowed to see them again.
This petty decision was not made to protect Emma from abuse or neglect, but only to alienate her from her loving family. Emma’s mother just doesn’t like Kevin’s family, so after his death, Kevin and his family no longer mattered. They do matter to Emma, however. She not only lost her father, but also lost connection with his entire family, their bonds, their memories, half of her DNA.
Emma’s story is compelling but not unusual. Many grandparents in Alabama are denied all access to their grandchildren simply because a parent doesn’t like them. Separating a child from loving grandparents is extremely harmful to the child, and a parent should not be allowed to do this without justification.
A parent should have the right to determine a child’s associations, but this right is not absolute. In certain cases, Alabama law authorizes a court to overrule the parent.
This authorization applies when the parents are divorced or one parent has died, or if the child was born out of wedlock. The grandparents must prove, among other things, that a significant and viable relationship exists between the grandparents and the grandchildren and that the loss of that relationship would likely cause harm to the grandchildren.
If you have been wrongfully denied access to your grandchildren, we would like to help. Call us today for a free consultation to determine if you qualify for grandparent visitation.
The scenario depicted herein is a fictional example of the types of cases in which Judge Sandlin has been previously involved.