U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Adoptive Mother in Child Visitation Case

supreme-court-1224501.jpgWhen a divorce or separation case involves children, the parties must address additional considerations that will affect the family down the road. Issues such as legal and physical custody and visitation (or “time-share”) must be resolved, either by mutual agreement or an order of the court. California courts have the authority to issue various kinds of visitation orders in child custody cases. The underlying goal is to find a suitable arrangement that serves the best interests of the child under the circumstances. It is important to understand your family’s rights in a child custody and visitation proceeding. You are encouraged to contact an experienced San Diego family law attorney, who can sort through the legal requirements in order to protect your rights.

“Visitation” is usually part of a custody order and is commonly understood to be the plan for how parents will divide time with their children. Depending on the situation, visitation can take place according to a schedule, or it may be unscheduled (“open-ended”) but “reasonable.” In some cases, courts will order “supervised” visitation, or no visitation at all. In order to be able to enforce a custody and visitation arrangement, the parties must present the plan to a judge. Once the judge signs the document, it becomes a court order, enforceable by either party. If circumstances change, such as the children’s schedules, the location of the parties, or any other item affecting the arrangement, either party may file an application with the court to modify the existing custody and visitation order.

It is very important to keep in mind that each child custody and visitation case is different and must be addressed with sensitivity to the facts at hand. Just recently, the United States Supreme Court issued orders in a pending and unique visitation case. According to a recent news article, the underlying matter involved a visitation dispute between two women who had been in a committed relationship for 17 years. During that time, one of the women, “E.L.,” gave birth to three children via insemination by an anonymous donor. In 2007, a Georgia court granted the other woman’s adoptions of the three children.

The couple raised the children together until 2011, when they broke up. But the adoptive mother, V.L., continued to spend time with the children after the break up. At some point, a dispute arose as to the adoptive mother’s visits. An Alabama court granted V.L. visitation rights under the Georgia adoption judgment. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed the ruling, refusing to afford the Georgia judgment full faith and credit under the Constitution.

According to the article, attorneys for V.L. urged the U.S. Supreme Court to restore the visitation order while the justices decide whether to grant certiorari and hear the case. Court-appointed counsel for the three children also asked the Court to restore the adoptive mother’s visitation rights, citing the best interests of the children. In a brief, three-sentence order, the Court stayed the decision of the Alabama court for the time being, pending the Court’s decision whether to hear the case.

Clearly, child custody and visitation cases evoke many strong emotions from all parties involved, including the children. Parents are encouraged to resolve divorce and separation cases as efficiently as possible, especially when children’s interests are involved. An experienced family law attorney would be able to aptly navigate the process while protecting your family’s rights. Roy M. Doppelt is a seasoned divorce attorney who has more than 20 years of experience assisting clients in San Diego and throughout the State of California with all of their family law needs. To schedule a free confidential consultation, call Doppelt & Forney toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748) or contact us through the law firm’s website.

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