Parental Opposition to Grandparent Visitation Scrutinized in Decaturville, Tennessee: Cupples v. Holmes

April 11, 2022 K.O. Herston 0 Comments

Facts: Maternal Grandparents filed a petition for grandparent visitation alleging that they enjoyed a significant relationship with six-year-old Child until the parents divorced and Mother’s visitation was restricted because of her drug problem.

Before Mother’s visitation was restricted, Grandparents had nearly daily contact with Child. During the first four months after Child was placed in Father’s sole custody, Grandfather consistently requested visitation but was granted only a single, one-hour, supervised visit with Child.

Father argued he did not oppose Maternal Grandparents’ supervised visitation with Child.

After hearing the proof, the trial court ruled that Maternal Grandparents receive monthly visitation with Child plus additional time during school breaks and holidays.

Father appealed.

On Appeal: The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.

Tennessee’s grandparent-visitation statute requires a showing that grandparent visitation was opposed or severely reduced by the custodial parent. It also requires a showing that:

  • the grandparent maintained a significant relationship for 12 months immediately preceding the severance of the relationship,
  • the relationship was severed by the parent for reasons other than abuse or a danger of substantial harm, and
  • the severance of the relationship is likely to cause substantial emotional harm to the child.

“Constructive denial” of visitation occurs when the custodial parent limits or restricts the frequency or conditions of visitation so that it is the same as a denial of visitation.

The Court found sufficient proof that Father opposed grandparent visitation:

Although Father claimed that he was not opposed to Grandparents’ visiting Child, he refused to allow the visits from March to June 2020, proffering concerns respecting the pandemic…. Father failed to explain why he allowed Child to visit his mother and attend daycare during the same time period without similar concerns regarding illness or why Grandparents could not have been allowed visitation…. In addition, Father not only refused in-person contact between Grandparents and Child, [but he also] disallowed all telephone contact except for one call on Child’s birthday.

Despite his protestations to the contrary, the exhibits presented at trial demonstrate that Father sent a text message to Grandparents in April 2020 asking them to cease having contact with him. This predated the filing of Grandparents’ petition for visitation. In doing so, Father denied visitation to Grandparents by refusing to allow them further contact such that they could not request visits. In addition, although Father points to the single visit in June 2020 as evidence of his lack of opposition to visitation, we note that Father placed significant restrictions on that visit by limiting Grandparents’ time with Child to one hour and requiring that the visit be supervised by him. This amounts to a constructive denial of visitation.

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Father has neither alleged nor proven that his cessation of Grandparents’ visits was due to any abuse of Child by Grandparents or presence of a danger of substantial harm to Child occasioned by Grandparents. Furthermore, as we have previously determined, Father’s cessation of Grandparents’ visits with Child is likely to cause substantial emotional harm to the child.

The Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

K.O.’s Comment: Compare this case with In re Trinity P., where the Court held that reasonable limits on grandparent visitation, such as supervised visitation, cannot be considered opposition to visitation.

Cupples v. Holmes (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Western Section, March 31, 2022).

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Parental Opposition to Grandparent Visitation Scrutinized in Decaturville, Tennessee: Cupples v. Holmes was last modified: April 21st, 2022 by K.O. Herston

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