By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – A chancery judge was wrong to grant grandparents visitation rights with their daughter’s two children, the Mississippi Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
The case came from a November 2011 decision by Chancellor Talmadge Littlejohn in Itawamba County Chancery Court.
“By placing limitations on who may petition for visitation,” wrote Judge Jimmy Maxwell of Oxford for the court, “the criteria keep a grandparent’s statutory right to visitation from impermissibly encroaching on the parents’ rights to rear their children as they see fit.”
Dorothy and Jack Quartaro are the parents of Shassidy Aydelott, who is married to Adam Aydelott. The Aydelotts have one daughter, and Mrs. Aydelott has another daughter.
To say they do not have a good relationship “is an understatement,” Maxwell wrote in the 10-0 decision.
In 2009, they stopped speaking, then the Aydelotts cut off the Quartaros’ access to the grandchildren. The Quartaros petitions for grandparent visitation rights.
Prior to their hearing, the Aydelotts asked the court for attorneys fees. Littlejohn found no financial hardship and denied their motion.
The judge also awarded the Quartaros a day visit once a month for the first six months, and after that, an overnight visit once a moth.
The Aydelotts, represented by Shane McLaughlin and Nicole McLaughlin of Tupelo, appealed both decisions. William Stennett was the Quartaros’ attorney.
Mississippi’s narrow statute has three tests for whether grandparents can petition for visitation. One is whether they had a “viable relationship” with the grandchild and they were unreasonably denied visitation.
While Littlejohn said visitation would be in the children’s best interests, Maxwell wrote that the Quartaros had not conclusively established that they had a viable relationship with the girls.
This finding reverses Littlejohn’s decision.
Maxwell said the denial of attorneys fees was affirmed.