Alabama grandparent visitation case ends at U.S. Supreme Court


One woman calls it a national epidemic, grandparents shut out of their grandchildren's lives. An Alabama case on the issue of visitation made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Whether it be divorce, a strained relationship, or even the death of one parent, grandparents may be left wondering about their rights. Fighting for visitation can be a long and expensive battle.

"You don't have a choice; you do it out of love for your grandchild," explains Wendy Gagliano. She says that love saw her through the sadness and frustration of a long court fight. "You live life three and a half years on the edge; not knowing if you'll ever see her, talk to her," says Gagliano..

She says she was cut out of her granddaughter's life when the child was five after the girl was adopted by the maternal grandmother. A Tuscaloosa Probate Court awarded Gagliano visitation. But the adopting maternal grandmother challenged the ruling appealing the case to the State Court of Civil Appeals, Alabama Supreme Court and finally the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court declined to review the case, meaning the original visitation order stood.

The news was overwhelming for Gagliano. "I just lost it. I was in a public place and they said do you need a wheelchair? I said no; it's good news," recalls Gagliano.

"It's just mind boggling to me that anybody would want to limit the people who want to love my child," says Attorney Katherine Parten. She is a family friend of Gagliano. While Parten was at law school, she convinced her professor to allow the school's Civil Law Clinic to help out on the case. "We knew it was an uphill battle, but that we would ultimately succeed," says Parten.

Parten says this case is unique because it involves an adoption within a family. Alabama adoption law allows close family members to ask for visitation if they can prove it would harm the child to cut off contact and that there had already been a steady relationship. She encourages petitioning family members to move quickly since after three years the process gets more difficult.

To other grandparents Gagliano has this message, "know there's hope and to not ever, ever give up."

Gagliano says she doesn't know why the other grandmother fought so hard to keep her away from their granddaughter. She wishes they just could have just talked it out before the lengthy court fight. She wants others in similar situations to realize how they are hurting the child.

Alabama's Grandparent Visitation Law passed the state legislature two years ago. It set tough standards for grandparents to petition for visitation with the courts.

National Grandparent Alienation Awareness Day is June 14th.

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