No Great-Grandparent Visitation

March 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

Grandparent visitation is a legislative creation that first made its appearance in Mississippi in 1983, and it is now codified at MCA 93-16-1. The concept was unknown to the common law.

We posted here before that there is no right of sibling or step-parent visitation.

But what about great-grandparents? They are, after all, grandparents themselves.

That was the question squarely before the COA in the case of Lott v. Alexander, handed down March 11, 2014.

The Alexanders are the great-grandparents of the children with whom visitation was sought. Lott, the children’s mother, is the Alexanders’ granddaughter. It appears from the record that, for whatever reason, the Alexanders have stood in the shoes of their own daugher, who is or was the grandmother of the children with whom visitation was requested. Based on that relationship, and on the judge’s findings that they met the criteria for grandparent visitation, the chancellor found that they were entitled to grandparent visitation. Lott appealed.

Judge Fair, for the majority, wrote that the statute, which is plain and unambiguous, does not include or even define great-grandparent status. The courts have no authority to expand or add to the scope of an unambiguous statute, so great-grandparent visitation is not available in Mississippi.

Judge Fair’s analysis is detailed and comprehensive. I commend it to your reading.

The outcome in this case should be no surprise. The statute is in derogation of common law, and, therefore, must be strictly construed. There is no room for the courts to add great-grandparents, siblings, step-parents, or any other categories of relatives whatsoever. That’s up to the legislature.

 

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