A recent 2-1 Michigan Court of Appeals decision published earlier this month, Porter v Hill, ruled that when a “natural” parent’s rights to their child are terminated, the grandparents rights are terminated along with the parents. This ruling seems to conflict with the Child Custody Act.
[a] child’s grandparent may seek a grandparenting time order under 1 or more of the following circumstances:… (c) The child’s parent who is a child of the grandparents is deceased.
Russell was not a legal parent of the children… Plaintiffs, as Russell’s parents, derived their rights as grandparents through him.
it would be anomalous for the Legislature to authorize a court to terminate a person’s parental rights based on abuse but then to somehow “revive” those rights for purposes of grandparent visitation.
[T]he Legislature’s use of the phrase natural parent and its affording to a grandparent of a right to seek grandparenting time independent of parental rights and notwithstanding parental desires…indicate both the plaintiffs …substantial interest in this case and that the statutory scheme at least implies that the Legislature intended to confer standing on the plaintiffs.
permits a ‘natural parent’ of a ‘natural parent’ to seek grandparenting time…and there is no dispute here that plaintiffs were the ‘natural parents’ of Russell. The only question before us, therefore, is whether Russell was a ‘natural parent’ of the minor children.
Some local family law lawyers have opined that the majority of the Court of Appeals got this one dead wrong. For now, however, the majority decision stands.
In its decision, the intermediate appellate court asks the Legislature to clarify their intended meaning of the term natural parent; let's not hold our breath.