On July 27, 2011, the Oregon Court of Appeals decided G.J.L. v. A.K.L.
In this case to establish visitation between grandparents and their grandchild, the trial court denied the grandparents’ petition for visitation and the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s decision. The grandparents had been the child’s foster parents for 14 months, and, after the child was returned to his parents’ care, the parents denied the grandparents visitation. The grandparents argued that denying them visitation was harmful to the child’s long term emotional development. The child’s mother argued that he needed time to reestablish a secure relationship with his parents and that court-ordered visitation with the grandparents would interfere with that process. In this type of case, there is a presumption that the parent is acting in the child’s best interests, and the grandparents had to show that the mother was not acting in her child’s best interests. After considering a number of factors, the Court of Appeals decided that the grandparents had not shown that the mother was not acting in the child’s best interests. The court stressed that the law gives parents “significant freedom to make decisions on behalf of their children,” even though a continuing relationship with the grandparents may have benefitted the child.