Mitchell A. Charney, Stephanie L. Morgan-White and Allison S. Russell of the Goldberg Simpson Family Law team recently won a landmark case in the Supreme Court of Kentucky. The case involved application of the Kentucky statute that gives grandparents the right to petition for visitation with their grandchildren. In Walker v. Blair, 2012-SC-000004-DGE (Ky. 2012), the Supreme Court of Kentucky upheld a parent’s fundamental due process liberty interest in making decisions regarding the care, custody, and control of their children. Based upon this constitutional liberty interest, the Supreme Court of Kentucky held that a parent’s decision to limit or deny visitation with the grandparent(s) is presumed to be in the child’s best interest. The Court then raised the standard required for grandparents attempting to challenge a parent’s decision and determined that grandparents can only rebut this presumption by showing clear and convincing evidence that visitation is in the child’s best interest.
Charney, Morgan-White and Russell represented the mother of the child in the Walker case. The trial court had granted a substantial amount of unsupervised visitation to the paternal grandmother over the mother’s objection and valid concerns that visitation may actually be detrimental to the child. The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision. However, the Supreme Court of Kentucky granted discretionary review of the case, and, after reviewing the law established by the Supreme Court of the United States, the Supreme Court of Kentucky ultimately reversed the Court of Appeals and vacated the trial court’s order. The ruling effectively upholds the constitutional rights of parents in Kentucky.