Glueckert v. Glueckert, 2015 MT 107 (April 17, 2015) (McGrath, C.J.; Rice, J., concurring & dissenting)) (4-1, aff’d)
Issue: Whether district court properly held that grandparents were not entitled to unsupervised visitation with grandchild contrary to mother’s wishes.
Short Answer: Yes.
Facts: The Glueckerts’ son Thayer married Kristin Glueckert, and the couple had a son, MT, in 2013. Thayer is on active military duty outside of Montana. He and Kristin have separated but not divorced, and no parenting plan is in place. MT has lived with Kristin since he was born, and Thayer has had physical contact with him only when home on leave.
The Glueckerts sought regular visitation with their grandson by negotiating with Kristin. Kristin agreed to contact, and provided one-hour visits in her home, but would not generally allow unsupervised visits except when Thayer is home on leave.
The Glueckerts petitioned for four 3-hour unsupervised visits a week, with additional unsupervised visits on special occasions. Kristin objected. She and the Gluekcerts have different views on corporal punishment, homosexuality, and other issues, and do not have a good relationship.
At the time of the district court decision, Kristin was planning to move to Idaho for radiography training. She was willing to allow the Glueckerts to come to Idaho to visit MT in supervised sessions.
Procedural Posture & Holding: The district court held a hearing and granted Kristin’s motion for summary judgment. Glueckerts appeal, and the Supreme Court affirms.
Reasoning: Grandparent contact is governed by § 40-9-101 to -103, MCA. Glueckerts acknowledge Kristin is a fit parent, and that she allows them contact with MT. Grandparents must overcome the express preference of a fit parent by clear and convincing evidence that what they want is in the child’s best interests. The district court’s findings are not clearly erroneous, and its conclusion that the Glueckerts did not produce clear and convincing evidence that regular unsupervised visitation is in MT’s best interests is affirmed.
Justice Rice’s concurrence and dissent: Justice Rice concurs with the interpretation of the statute, but disagrees with its application to the facts of this case. Justice Rice concludes that the presumption in Kristin’s favor was overcome by the totality of the evidence. Justice Rice explains that this does not mean the specific relief Glueckerts requested should be granted, only that they were entitled to have the visitation issue subjected to a best-interest determination that would have resulted in an appropriate schedule. He would remand for consideration of that issue.