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Hawkins v. Williams

Supreme Court of Alaska

December 20, 2013

Marci HAWKINS, Appellant,
v.
Sonia M. WILLIAMS and Daniel Williams, Appellees.

Page 1203

Marci Hawkins, pro se, Wasilla, Appellant.

Sonia Williams and Daniel Williams, pro se, Wasilla, Appellees.

Before: FABE, Chief Justice, WINFREE, STOWERS, MAASSEN, and BOLGER, Justices.

BOLGER, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

A grandmother petitioned for visitation with her daughter's four children. After a trial, the superior court denied the petition, finding that the grandmother failed to show bye clear and convincing evidence that visitation was in the best interests of the children. The grandmother appeals, arguing that: (1) the superior court erred by applying the clear and convincing burden of proof; (2) the record does not support the superior court's conclusion that the grandmother had not established ongoing personal contact with the children; and (3) the record does not support the superior court's conclusion that the grandmother failed to prove visitation was in the best interests of the children. We conclude that the superior court applied the correct burden of proof and that its conclusions were adequately supported by the evidence presented at trial.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Sonia and Daniel Williams have four children. Marci Hawkins is Sonia's mother. Marci has two other living daughters; she also had a son who died in April 2011 at the age of 27.

Page 1204

Marci was present at the birth of each of the Williams children, and she occasionally babysat the two oldest children before Sonia and Daniel were married. But Sonia and Marci " have butted heads a lot since about 2001." According to Marci, their relationship has worsened since 2009, when Marci divorced her ex-husband and remarried.

At the beginning of 2011, Sonia and Marci were beginning to work on improving their relationship. But after Marci's son died, Marci and her three daughters had a conflict over his funeral arrangements. Marci sent an emotional email to her daughters, followed by a similar letter. Both communications indicated that Marci wanted " no further contact" with her daughters.

In January 2012, Marci filed a petition for grandparent visitation. She alleged that Sonia and Daniel had denied her contact with her grandchildren since April 2011. In their answer, Sonia and Daniel responded that visitation was not in the best interests of the children because Marci had " not been in the children's life since August 2009" and Marci had ended all communication with their family.

The superior court held a half-day trial in July 2012. After the trial, the superior court denied the petition for grandparent visitation. The court found that " [i]t has been four years since Marci has seen the children, and she has not made attempts to reunify without court involvement." The court also concluded that Marci had failed to show by clear and convincing ...


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