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PJC Urges Court of Appeals to Adopt a Harm Standard for Court-Ordered Grandparent Visitation

On July 31, 2006, the Public Justice Center filed a friend of the court brief in Maryland's Court of Appeals urging greater judicial clarity in the application of Maryland’s Grandparent Visitation statute in the case of Glen Koshko v. John Haining  (No. 35, Court of Appeals of Maryland, September Term 2005).

The Grandparent Visitation statute as written would permit a court to order grandparent visitation over the objection of the child's fit parents.  This flies in the face of constitutional principals that it is the parents, rather than the state, who are presumptively entitled to make decisions about the best interests of their children.  It is particularly a problem for many poorer parents who cannot afford counsel, and may not be able to assert their constitutional rights to make decisions for their children.  The PJC's brief argues that to save the Grandparent Visitation statute from being unconstitutional, the courts should require a threshold showing that, prior to overriding a fit parent’s decision-making, a grandparent must show evidence that denial of grandparent visitation would harm the child.  The PJC's brief argues that construing a harm standard into the Grandparent Visitation statute would affirm the presumption that fit parents should decide the best interests of their children, permit a grandparent who can establish harm to be granted visitation, and would provide guidance to the courts in resolving these difficult family issues.

The PJC was joined in this brief by the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, the ACLU of Maryland, and the University of Baltimore School of Law Family Clinic.  The brief was written by PJC's Appellate Director Suzanne Sangree, Roscoe Jones, Jr. – Francis D. Murnaghan, Jr. Appellate Advocacy Fellow, and Steve Ruckman – a PJC summer intern.

Click here to read the brief.

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