Outside Legal Counsel PLC

Grandparents File Brief After Supreme Court Orders Further Arguments Regarding Grandparenting Rights

For Immediate Release | Nov 27, 2013

Attorneys for two grandparents seeking visitation rights under Michigan’s grandparenting statute have filed a supplemental brief after the Michigan Supreme Court ordered oral argument on whether to hear the case. The Supreme Court requested additional briefing in late October.

Attorneys Colin Dill of Dill Law PLLC and Philip L. Ellison of Outside Legal Counsel PLC are preparing and arguing the case before the high court.

In 2011, Robert and Judith Porter asked the Saginaw County Circuit Court to enter an ordering of grandparenting time following the death of their son, the biological father of the Porters' two grandchildren. Before his death, the local court had terminated his parental rights.

In the request for grandparenting time, Saginaw County Judge James Borchard ruled, after concluding that the Porters were “fine people,” the Porters lack legal standing to make the request. Borchard further stated he hoped the appeals court would reverse this decision.

In a 2-1 decision, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the Saginaw court’s ruling opining that although Porters may be biological grandparents they are no longer considered 'legal' grandparents. Dissenting judge Mark T. Boonstra criticized the lead opinion and concluded the statute provides the Porters the opportunity to request the order.

The Porters then asked the Michigan Supreme to intervene. In October, the Supreme Court ordered the parties to further brief the statute, since being revised in 2009. The high court also ordered oral argument “on whether to grant the application or take other action” in the case.

In their supplemental brief, the Porters argued that the Legislature defined parents and grandparents to be those individuals who are the “natural” parent and grandparents of the two children. Under the law, a grandparent is defined as “a natural or adoptive parent of a child's natural or adoptive parent” while a parent is defined as “the natural or adoptive parent of a child.”

Assuming the case is resolved in the Porters’ favor, the case will be remanded back to the Saginaw County Circuit Court for further hearings on whether it is in the best interest of the grandchildren.

“The legal issues are technical and based on definitions provided by the Michigan Legislature,” states Philip L. Ellison. “But practically speaking, the Court of Appeals’ decision prevents thousands of grandparents from even requesting grandparenting time.”

The Supreme Court also invited the State Bar of Michigan’s Family Law Section and other interested parties to submit briefs on the issue as well.

A copy may be downloaded here.