Month: October 2011

Grandparent Visitation

This is sort of old news, but it’s an important change in the law in Alabama regarding grandparent visitation. The Alabama Supreme Court in June of this year ruled the preexisting Alabama Grandparent Visitation Act, enacted by legislature in 2010, was unconstitutional. The Act, which allowed grandparents to seek visitation rights with their grandchildren even if the parent has given up or lost parental rights, was found to not properly protect parents’ fundamental right to decide how to raise their children. “The state can interfere with that right only if the parents are shown to be unfit, Justice Tom Parker wrote in the main decision, in which Justices Tom Woodall and Kelli Wise concurred.”

“The justices recognize the vital role grandparents and grandchildren play in each others’ lives, wrote Justice Glenn Murdock, himself a grandparent who recalled his special relationship as a child with his own grandparents.

“Ultimately, however, the question present is whether the government has the power to mandate, through the use of force if necessary, the physical removal of children from fit custodial parents,” he wrote. “As between fit parents and the government, I must chose the parents.””

-Eric Velasco, The Birmingham News

This is an important change in the law regarding grandparent visitation in Alabama, and will certainly be the cause of future litigation and controversy.

Read more here: http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2011/06/alabamas_top_court_overturns_l.html

L.R. and D.E.R. v. C.G. and M.G.

The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals released an interesting opinion recently regarding termination of parental rights. Widely held as one of the highest burdens to meet in any area of the law, this opinion does nothing to diminish the fact that terminating a parent’s parental rights remains extremely difficult and is only granted in extreme, rare circumstances.

In L.R., the Court of Civil Appeals considered a case where the maternal grandparents received custody of the parties’ three minor children after a trial where it was revealed that the mother and father both had a history of drug use and criminal trouble. Morgan County DHR removed the children from L.R. after an investigation revealed that the two older children were subject to sexual abuse at the hands of neighbors with whom the mother had left them. As part of the DHR safety plan, they were placed in the custody of the maternal grandparents, and permanent legal and physical custody in June 2008.

In June 2010 the maternal grandparents filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the mother and father, and the Juvenile Court of Morgan County entered judgments terminating said rights. The mother and father appealed.

In its analysis, the Court of Civil Appeals reiterated the standard for termination of parental rights, subject to Ala Code 1975 12-15-319, which provides that the juvenile court must have “clear and convincing evidence” that the parents of a child are “unwilling to discharge their responsibilities to and for the child, or that the conduct or condition of the parents renders them unable to properly care for the child and that the conduct or condition is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future” before it can terminate parental rights. Here, the facts showed that the mother and father were improving their situations, wanted a relationship with the children, and that terminating their parental rights would further no real purpose, as the children were all adjusted and doing well.

Once again, terminating a parent’s parental rights remains one of the heaviest burdens to meet in almost any area of the law.

Read the full opinion here: http://www.alabamaappellatewatch.com/uploads/file/2100215.PDF



			

Introduction

Welcome to my blog! I’ve been told I need one for a while, so consider this the taking of the plunge.

I opened my own private practice law firm in Birmingham, Alabama in 2008 with a focus on family law and domestic relations. Unbeknownst to me, specializing in family law ends up bleeding into many other areas of the law. When a divorce client needs a will, suddenly you’re an estate planning lawyer, and when a child support client goes to jail, well, you unwittingly become a criminal defense attorney. It’s exciting and challenging, and a journey that I’m happy to be a part of.

Check out my website, www.bradjlatta.com, and check back here for regular updates.