Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Case Law Development: Appointment of Parental Coordinator to Resolve Grandparent Visitation Dispute Violates Parent's Right of Privacy

Family Courts are increasingly making use of parental coordinators and other professionals to assist in mediating ongoing disputes in family law cases.  However, the Florida Court of Appeals has provided a strong reminder that courts may not require cooperation with these professionals and processes unless the underlying dispute is grounded on legal rights.  In this case, the court reversed a trial court’s order appointing a parental coordinator and mandating that Father meet with the coordinator in order to resolve visitation dispute between him and his children’s maternal grandmother. The court found that, since grandmother had no right to visitation absent of showing of harm to the children, the orders appointing a parental coordinator violated Father’s constitutional right to privacy. 

Cranney v. Coronado, 2006 Fla. App. LEXIS 1094 (February 1, 2006)
Opinion available on the web (last visited February 6, 2006 bgf)

After Father's ex-wife died, Father had obtained custody of his two minor children and then prohibited maternal grandmother from visiting the children and sought an injunction to prevent her contact with the children. Grandmother counterpetitioned for termination of Father's rights and custody of the children. After the GAL reported that there were no grounds for termination, Father and Grandmother then filed motions to have the other evaluated.  The trial court in resolving the cross motions for evaluation, appointed a parental coordinator and ordered the parties to meet with the coordinator to resolve the visitation dispute.

Father appealed, arguing that grandmother had no standing and that the orders to meet with the coordinator violated his right to privacy.  The court agreed, finding that "in the absence of a constitutionally valid basis for an order concerning grandparent visitation, the trial court's orders appointing the parental coordinator and requiring [Father] to meet and consult with the coordinator concerning visitation subject [Father] to an unwarranted inquiry into his private decision-making process concerning the best interests of his children. His right to privacy is thus violated.” (internal quotations omitted).

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/family_law/2006/02/case_law_develo_6.html

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