Lightfoot v. Hollins, A10A1923
*All courts mentioned are at the state level.
Facts and Trial Court:
- In a North Carolina divorce, Mother was awarded custody of the minor child. Mother tragically died several months after the divorce. Father then obtained custody. Father remarried two years later. Stepmother adopted child through proceedings in North Carolina. Father, stepmother and child now live in Cobb County.
- Maternal Grandparents, who live in Maryland, brought action in Cobb County Superior Court seeking visitation privileges, alleging Father had only allowed grandparents to see child twice following Mother’s death and had not allowed grandparents to see child at all in the past four years.
- Father filed motion for summary judgment based on his current wife having legally adopting the child, alleging the grandparents’ rights to the child had been extinguished by law. Father also alleged that grandparents had failed to satisfy O.C.G.A. § 19-7-3 (c) by providing clear and convincing evidence that the health or welfare of the child would be harmed if visitation were denied. Father also stated the grandparents failed to show that it would be in the best interest of the child for visitation to be granted, using as a basis for his assertion the fact that the grandparents had not seen the child in four years.
- Trial court held O.C.G.A. § 19-7-3 provided a basis for grandparents’ claim, despite the adoption. Trial court also found that the lack of contact in the past four years was not sufficient to resolve all facts relevant to the petition and appointed a Guardian Ad Litem to “completely investigate all aspects of the case.”
Court of Appeals:
- Biological father appealed denial of his motion for summary judgment, stating grandparents failed to show clear and convincing evidence that the child would suffer harm absent their visitation, and that the lack of contact for four years resolved the issue as a matter of law.
- Mary Stearns-Montgomery and Ryan Proctor for appellant
- Anthony Zezima for appellee
Cobb Superior Court, Judge George H. Kreeger