Alabama Supreme Court denies challenge to constitutionality of grandparent visitation law

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On Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court declined a request by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange to revisit a ruling by a lower appeals court declaring the Alabama Grandparent Visitation Act unconstitutional.

The act, which became law in 2010, provided grandparents with the ability to seek “limited visitation rights” in cases where parents refused to allow grandparents access to grandchildren.

The law was first declared unconstitutional just one year after its inception because it infringes on the rights of parents to decide what’s best for their children, including who those children are allowed to see.

Though the Alabama Legislature attempted to alter the law to address those concerns, the Alabama Civil Court of Appeals ruled in October that even the amended law was unconstitutional.

The appeals court used an Autauga County case, where the plaintiff was only identified by the initials E.R.G., to strike down the amended bill when a grandmother sought access to two of her grandchildren despite the parents’ objections.

The original act passed the Alabama House of Representatives by a 99 to 0 vote and was eventually cleared by the state senate as well.

Though justices did not issue an opinion today, with the Alabama Supreme Court website only noting that Strange’s request was denied, Justice Greg Shaw wrote: “The attorney general, in his certiorari petition, contends that various writings by the Justices in E.R.G., including my writing, indicated that a presumption in favor of the parent’s decision was required for the GVA to be constitutional. Because the 2011 amendments to the GVA provide such a presumption in favor of the parent’s decision, the attorney general contends that the GVA as amended in 2011 is now constitutionally sufficient.”

“I regret that the Supreme Court denied (my) certiorari,” Strange said in an email. “The Legislature could have benefited from the Court’s guidance on how to craft a statute that passes constitutional muster.”


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