Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Court sidesteps grandparents' rights case

Court sidesteps grandparents' rights case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court refused Monday to consider making it harder for grandparents to win visitation rights, rejecting an appeal from a dad who went to jail to fight a court-ordered visitation.

Brian Collier had asked the justices to strike down Ohio visitation laws, on grounds that they interfere with parents' rights to raise their families free from government interference.

Collier's daughter is 7 and for most of her life has been the center of an emotional legal dispute in the small Ohio town of Wooster, about 30 miles southwest of Akron.

The girl's mother, Renee Harrold, was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant and decided not to have treatment until after the child was born, according to court records. The woman died in 1999, when Brittany Renee was 2.

Collier, who never married the mother, later won custody of his daughter but refused to let the girl see her maternal grandparents.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the girl should be allowed to maintain contact with the grandparents who had raised her until she was 5 years old.

Collier served a brief jail sentence in 2003 for contempt of court, for blocking the visitation. He maintains that the grandparents, Gary and Carol Harrold, are trying to turn his daughter against him.

The Supreme Court has dealt before with grandparent visitation, in a fractured 2000 ruling that said states must be careful in helping grandparents and others with close ties to children win the right to see them regularly against parents' wishes.

The decision was written by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who retired earlier this year.

Collier's lawyer, Lawrence Whitney of Akron, Ohio, told justices that they should revisit to the issue, to bolster parents' rights.

"Any statute allowing any non-parent visitation rights in contravention of a fit parent's wishes is repugnant to that parent's constitutional rights," he wrote in the appeal.

The grandparents were granted visitation in part under an Ohio law that allows visits when the parent of a child has died.

The case is Collier v. Harrold, 05-871.

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