If parents have lost their rights to have custody of their children, should preference be given to another relative in determining who is granted guardianship? According to a recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling, the answer is no.
The high court unanimously upheld the ruling of a circuit court judge who ruled that a St. Augustine, Florida, grandmother shouldn’t be given preference in the determination of who gets custody of her daughter’s children just because she is a family member. Her petition to adopt them had been rejected by the Michigan Children’s Institute. The circuit court judge had ruled that the only consideration in granting guardianship should be what is in the best interest of the children.
The grandmother, who is a nurse, appealed the ruling, and an appeals court reversed it last June. In that decision, the judges ruled that under state law, relatives should be given preference. However, the Michigan Department of Human Services took the case to the state Supreme Court.
The Florida woman’s daughter lost custody of her four children, who are under the age of 13, and the two men who fathered the children also lost their parental rights. In the April 22 decision, the court said that once parents’ rights are terminated, preference should no longer be given to family members.
The Florida Supreme Court did not rule on the specific issue of whether the Michigan Children’s Institute had the right to reject the grandmother’s adoption petition. That matter is now back in the hands of the appeals court. The children have been living in foster homes for the past five years, and reportedly, there are foster parents seeking to adopt them.
There are many sad cases where children end up in foster care or group facilities because their parents are unable or unwilling to properly care for them. While many people may assume that loving family members who want to take them in are automatically allowed to do so, that is not always the case. These family members may have a legal battle on their hands. However, when they are fighting for what is in the best interests of the children, that battle is worthwhile.