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Jordan v. Watson

Supreme Court of Alaska

December 8, 2017

CHERYL JORDAN and THOMAS JORDAN, Appellants,
v.
CHANDRA WATSON and WILLIAM JORDAN, Appellees.

         Appeal from the Superior Court No. 1 SI-16-00027 CI of the State of Alaska, First Judicial District, Sitka, David V. George, Judge.

          Kara A. Nyquist, Anchorage, for Appellants.

          James W. McGowan, Sitka, for Appellee Chandra Wilson.

          No appearance by Appellee William Jordan.

          Before: Stowers, Chief Justice, Winfree, Maassen, Bolger, and Carney, Justices.

          OPINION

          CARNEY, Justice.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Paternal grandparents asked the court to order visitation with their grandson. The superior court denied their request because they did not allege that the child suffered any detriment from a lack of court-ordered visitation. We affirm.

         II. FACTS & PROCEEDINGS

         Cheryl and Thomas Jordan are the grandparents of a young boy. They moved to intervene in a custody dispute between the boy's parents to seek court-ordered visitation with their grandson. Neither their motion nor its accompanying affidavits contained any allegation that the child suffered any detriment from a lack of court-ordered visitation. They alleged only that the child's mother, Chandra Watson, restricted them to "short visits" with the child, failed to facilitate their relationship with the child, and preferred to hire strangers to babysit instead of asking the grandparents to watch him. Chandra objected to the grandparents' motion.

         The superior court denied the motion, reasoning that the grandparents had not alleged any detriment to the child resulting from a lack of court-ordered visitation, as required by our decision in Ross v. Bauman.[1] The grandparents filed a second motion making similar arguments; the court rejected it on the same grounds. The grandparents appeal.

         III. DISCUSSION

         The grandparents argue that statutory law and due process required the superior court to at least grant them a hearing on their motion. "We use our independent judgment to decide whether it was error not to hold an evidentiary hearing."[2] "A hearing is not necessary if 'there is no genuine issue of material fact before the court, ' "[3] and we will affirm the superior court's decision to deny a hearing if "the facts alleged, even if proved, cannot warrant" granting the grandparents visitation.[4] "Questions of due process also are reviewed de novo."[5]

         Alaska Statute 25.20.065 allows grandparents to seek "reasonable rights of visitation" with a grandchild if they have "established or attempted to establish ongoing personal contact with the child" and if visitation is in the child's best interests.[6] But we held in Ross v. Bauman that due process requires a third element: "[A] third party seeking court-ordered visitation with a child, including a grandparent seeking an order under AS 25.20.065, must prove by clear and convincing evidence that it is detrimental to the child to ...


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