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Melissa A. Featherston

Grandparents' rights case may resonate with Missouri readers

An international visitation case is pitting father's rights against grandparents' rights in the wake of a mother's death.

That mother reportedly took her son out of the country to visit her family eight years ago and refused to refuse to return with the boy. She eventually divorced her son's father and remarried another man in her native country, only to die in childbirth in 2008.

Missouri families dealing with custody issues of their own may find this long-running grandparents' rights case interesting to follow.

In the latest development, a state appeals court has decided that the maternal grandmother has the right to fight in court for visitation with her grandson. In its decision, the court decided that a lower court judge should have assessed whether allowing the boy's grandmother to have visitation with him would be in the child's best interests.

That lower court had apparently refused to give the woman the opportunity to fight for visitation rights and also levied over $89,000 in legal fees against her. The appellate court not only overturned the lower court's decision on visitation. It also waived the fees.

This New Jersey case and the father's battle for his parental rights and the return of his son from Brazil garnered international attention. The man spent years battling in both American and Brazilian courts before re-gaining custody of his son three years ago.

The father had reportedly denied visitation rights to his son's maternal grandmother unless the woman agreed to conditions, such as dropping litigation in Brazil to get the boy back to his family in that country -- a condition the appeals court termed onerous.

This is undoubtedly a complicated and emotionally charged case, not uncommon when child custody and visitation rights are involved. Grandparents' rights advocates in Missouri may well wish to follow this case as it progresses. While this particular case may be working its way through the New Jersey court system, its implications could reach across both state and international lines in the future.

Source: WBRC-TV, "Court: Grandma should have NJ visitation hearing," Associated Press, July 11, 2012

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