Patten v. ArdisAnnotate this Case
In 2015, Robert Shaughnessy and Katie Patten married and conceived a child. Shaughnessy died soon thereafter. In November 2015, the widowed Patten gave birth to a baby girl, and Patten permitted Shaughnessy’s mother, Mary Jo Ardis, to visit with the baby on a couple of occasions. But those visits did not go well, and in November 2016, Ardis filed a petition pursuant to OCGA 19-7-3 (d) for court-ordered visitation with her granddaughter. In Brooks v. Parkerson, 454 SE2d 769 (1995), the Georgia Supreme Court held that the Grandparent Visitation Act of 1988 was unconstitutional to the extent that it authorized courts to award child visitation to a grandparent over the objection of fit parents and without a clear and convincing showing of harm to the child. Seventeen years later, the General Assembly enacted the Grandparent Visitation Rights Act of 2012, a provision of which authorized courts to award child visitation in some circumstances to a grandparent over the objection of a fit parent and without a clear and convincing showing of harm to the child in limited circumstances. Citing Brooks, Patten responded that subsection (d) unconstitutionally impaired a parent’s “right to raise his or her child without undue state interference,” and upon this ground, Patten moved to dismiss the petition for visitation. In May 2017, following a hearing, the trial court held that subsection (d) was constitutional, denied the motion to dismiss, and granted the petition for visitation pursuant to subsection (d), concluding that visitation with Ardis was consistent with the best interests of the girl. Patten appealed, and the Supreme Court reversed and remanded with direction. The Supreme Court determined subsection (d) was unconstitutional, and the trial court erred in granting visitation pursuant to that subsection.