Stuard v. StuardAnnotate this Case
Matthew Stuard raised equal protection and substantive due process challenges to an order allowing visitation of his daughter, Riley, by paternal grandparents Jeffrey Stuard (Jeff) and Cynthia Stuard (Cindy). The trial court awarded grandparent visitation under Family Code section 3104 even though there was no allegation Matthew or his ex-wife, Rebekah, were unfit parents. The trial court based its order on findings there is a preexisting relationship between Riley and her paternal grandparents and it is in Riley’s best interest to continue to have contact with Jeff and Cindy. On appeal, Matthew argued section 3104 violated his constitutional rights: (1) by discriminating between divorced parents and married parents who are cohabiting; (2) he would not be subject to the grandparent visitation order if he were still married to Rebekah; and (3) his substantive due process rights were violated by undermining his fundamental right to parent in the absence of any finding he or Rebekah were unfit parents. Furthermore, among other things, Matthew argued the trial court failed to follow section 3104 in basing the visitation order on Riley’s best interest and her parents’ role in allowing Jeff and Cindy to develop a relationship with her. The Court concluded that an anger management counseling portion of the trial court’s order did not include the findings required by section 3190 and did not limit the counseling to a period of not more than one year. Accordingly, the Court reversed only this portion of the order and remanded it for the trial court to make the statutorily required findings and to limit counseling to one year if the counseling order is reimposed. The Court rejected Matthew's other constitutional arguments and affirmed in all other respects.