Patty Giordano is a vibrant great grandmother. And though this business owner is in Fairhope, Alabama, she never stops thinking about her extended family way up north in Indiana.
“I just love the life out of them,” says Giordano.
Which would make it difficult if, for some reason she was prohibited from ever seeing them again. Alabama law once stated that if a parent who did not have custody of a child were to die, those grandparents would be able to visit the children in their place. However, it was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1999.
“And so the legislature began attempts to have a statute that would be constitutional. And they’ve tried seven or eight times with a statute,” says Judge Don Banks.
But the Alabama Supreme Court rendered its final opinion in 2011, outlawing the state’s statute. Which is causing frustration among all grandparents.
“A lot of grandparents are helping raise the kids, and they are a big part of their life and to be ripped away from them, it’s not good for the kids or the grandparents,” says Giordano.
Judge Don Banks’ focus is divorce cases and explains the main reason the statute failed.
“But it seems to be the controlling principle is taking away the parent’s right, which is a constitutionally protected right, to raise their children as they see fit,” says Banks.
In a divorce situation, the custodial parent has the first say. And there could be several reasons for the parent to keep the child’s grandparents at a distance.
“Could be that the grandparent is doing things to alienate the child from the parent, the grandparent has principles that are, for conduct of a child, that’s not in line with what the parent thinks are correct. Maybe just dislike of the side, you know, there was a bitter divorce,” adds Banks.
“There’s always going to be one or two families like that. If it’s just a bad divorce, I don’t think the parents should suffer,” says Giordano.
There are no attempts right now by legislature to introduce this again, and it would have to be introduced in the state House of Representatives or the Senate and go through the ranks.
“The love that you have for them in stronger because you get to give them your wisdom without being the disciplinarian. When they’re your grandchildren, you just love more,” says Giordano.