State Digest


January 18, 2007

Court upholds visitation rights for grandparents

Maryland's highest court has upheld a state law granting visitation rights to grandparents, but it set a higher standard for when a judge may overrule the wishes of a parent.

The case pitted the rights of grandparents, who wanted to maintain a regular relationship with their grandchildren despite a family feud, against the rights of the child's parents, who wanted to sever the grandparents' ties with the children.

The Court of Appeals said Friday that Maryland's grandparent visitation law was constitutional but that a grandparent must first show that a parent is unfit or demonstrate that there are exceptional circumstances before a court can consider whether visitation is in the child's best interests.

Enacted in 1981 and amended in 1993, Maryland's law allows a court to grant grandparents visitation rights if it determines that it is in the best interests of the child. More than a decade of case law had not required grandparents to meet the standards established by Friday's ruling.

The case involved a New Jersey couple who in 2004 petitioned Baltimore County Circuit Court for visitation rights with their daughter's three children.

John and Maureen Haining testified that the two families had visited each other about once a month. They presented numerous letters, cards and evidence of telephone calls to demonstrate continued contact between visits. In 2003, their daughter Andrea Koshko decided to sever ties with the Hainings after a family dispute that had nothing to do with the grandchildren.

The Circuit Court granted the Hainings' petition, establishing a rolling schedule of four-hour visits every 45 days and quarterly overnight visits. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed that ruling last year. The case will now go back to the Circuit Court.



UMES president seeking top job at Florida college

Thelma Thompson, president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, is meeting this week with students, faculty members and others as she competes for the post of president at Florida A&M University.

Thompson, one of three finalists for the job, will tour the campus, meet with faculty members and eat lunch with students, according to the Florida A&M presidential search committee schedule.

Thompson would be the first permanent female president of the historically black university in Tallahassee, which has 12,000 students. UMES, in Princess Anne, has an enrollment of about 4,000.

Florida A&M has an operating budget of more than $390 million. It will spend more than $56 million on research this year.


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