U.S. top court won't hear grandparents visitation case

WASHINGTON Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:26pm IST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to decide an issue it last addressed in 2000 on whether grandparents who seek court-ordered visitation of their grandchildren when the parents object must prove a compelling circumstance for the visit.

The high court refused to hear a case from Alabama on whether it violated constitutional due process rights to require proof by the grandparents of a compelling circumstance, such as parental unfitness or preventing harm to the children.

Alabama was among 18 states that have such a requirement. Nineteen states have a adopted a more flexible, lenient rule that requires the judge considering a visitation request to simply give a presumption in favor of the parents' wishes.

The Supreme Court last ruled on the issue in 2000, when it struck down a Washington state law that gave grandparents broad rights to seek court-ordered visitation even when the parents objected.

In the Alabama case, the Supreme Court appeal was filed by the grandparents, who were identified only by the initials of their names, after the state high court ruled for the parents in the visitation dispute.

The grandparents and the parents initially had a close relationship and the grandparents participated in the lives of their two granddaughters, who were born in 1996 and 1997, according to the court record.

The failure of a business shared by the father and grandfather caused financial problems for both families and their relationship disintegrated. After consulting a family counselor, the parents in 2005 restricted and then ended all contact between the grandparents with their two children.

A court ordered visitation in 2008. But a state appeals court and the state Supreme Court ruled for the parents in rejecting visitation for the grandparents.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied the appeal by the grandparents without any comment.

The Supreme Court case is E.R.G. v. E.H.G., No. 11-311.

(Reporting By James Vicini; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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