Elder Law Blog

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Adult child has no right to compel a parent’s new spouse to provide unimpeded access to the parent

In Williford v. Brown, 2016 Ga. Lexis 352 (May 9, 2016), Tamara Williford allaged that her step-mother, Mary Ann Brown, denied access to her father, Tommy Brown. Ms. Williford filed a Petition against Mrs. Brown in Hart County Superior Court, alleging a right to visit her father. In her petition, Ms. Williford argued she was Mr. Brown’s biological child, and that he could not leave home but "is in good mental condition and can make decisions for himself." She also argued that the two had a good relationship and used to talk on the telephone regularly, that they saw each other in person, and that her father would like to see Ms. Williford, but was prevented from doing so by Mrs. Brown. Ms. Williford sought an order allowing her unimpeded access to Mr. Brown or appointing a guardian ad litem to ascertain Mr. Brown’s wishes. Mrs. Brown filed an answer denying substantially all of Ms. Williford’s allegations.

Williford v. Brown was presented as a case in equity. In other words, Ms. Williford admitted there was no statute or case law granting a child unimpeded access or visitation right to see a parent. Instead, she argued the circumstances were unjust and the Court should exercise its powers as a court of equity to craft a remedy where none existed.

The trial court denied Ms. Williford’s Petition. It noted that “as a general matter, equity should not interfere in domestic matters.” The trial court distinguished other cases where the court’s stepped in, but in each case, either property rights or legal status were at risk. In Williford v. Brown, neither was at stake. Further, because there is no “right” to visit with a parent, there was no legally cognizable wrong or injury that needed to be remedied. Accordingly, the trial court dismissed the petition for failure to state a claim, and the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed that ruling.

If the ruling in this case disturbs you, then perhaps its a good time to call your local legislator. Get involved. Make a difference.

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