Neal v. Lee

CourtSupreme Court of Oklahoma
Citation2000 OK 90,14 P.3d 547
Docket NumberNo. 93,670.,93,670.
PartiesKaren Sue NEAL, Plaintiff/Appellee, v. Kristina LEE and Keehan Odell Nesvold, Defendants/Appellants.
Decision Date07 November 2000

14 P.3d 547
2000 OK 90

Karen Sue NEAL, Plaintiff/Appellee,
Kristina LEE and Keehan Odell Nesvold, Defendants/Appellants

No. 93,670.

Supreme Court of Oklahoma.

November 7, 2000.

As Corrected November 28, 2000.

Mark A. Zannotti, Tulsa, OK, for the Appellants.

Lynn Summers Lugibihl, William A. Caldwell, Barber & Bartz, Tulsa, OK, for the Appellee.

14 P.3d 548

¶ 1 Title 10, section 5 of the Oklahoma Statutes permits a court to grant grandparent visitation if the "court deems it in the best interest of the child."1 In November of 1997, Karen Sue Neal petitioned the district court for the right to visit Joshua, Whitney, and Hunter, her grandchildren. Kristina Nesvold, Karen Neal's daughter and the children's mother, and Keehan Nesvold, Joshua's step-father and Whitney and Hunter's father, opposed the visitation. The trial court granted Karen Neal grandparent visitation finding the visitation was in the grandchildren's best interest.


¶ 2 When Kristina Nesvold became pregnant with Joshua, she was single. Joshua was born in July of 1989. Joshua's biological father died in 1991. He and Kristina Nesvold never married. Kristina Nesvold married Keehan Nesvold. Kristina Nesvold and

14 P.3d 549
Keehan Nesvold (collectively the Nesvolds) had two children Whitney, born in February of 1994, and Hunter, born in March of 1995. On November 20, 1997, Karen Sue Neal filed a petition seeking court-ordered visitation with Joshua, Whitney, and Hunter. On May 18, 1999, Keehan Nesvold filed a petition to adopt Joshua

¶ 3 On April 27, 1998, the Nesvolds and Karen Neal agreed to an order allowing Karen Neal three supervised visits. The parties also agreed that Ms. Simpson, a child therapist, should formulate a grandparent visitation plan to be filed with the court. The plan was to become final ten days after it was filed unless one of the parties filed an objection. Ms. Simpson's grandparent visitation plan was filed on March 11, 1999. The visitation plan granted one day visitation to Karen Neal on the second Saturday of each month and fours hours on the fourth Tuesday. On March 15, 1999, the Nesvolds filed an objection to the plan and requested a stay of grandparent visitation. On May 25, 1999, the Nesvolds filed a motion to terminate grandparent visitation.

¶ 4 On June 14, 1999, over the Nesvolds' objection, the district court entered an order granting Karen Neal visitation with Joshua, Whitney, and Hunter as recommended in Ms. Simpson's report. The Nesvolds filed a petition in error asserting that the title 10, section 5 unconstitutionally infringes on their relations with their children. This Court retained the appeal for resolution.

II. Court Ordered Grandparent Visitation

¶ 5 Grandparent visitation was recently addressed by the United Supreme Court. Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 120 S.Ct. 2054, 147 L.Ed.2d 49 (2000). In Troxel, the biological parents of two daughters were never married. After the parents' separation, the father lived with his parents, and the daughters visited their paternal grandparents often. After the father committed suicide, the paternal grandparents petitioned the court for visitation with their granddaughters. The mother did not oppose visitation but wanted more limited visitation than the grandparents requested. The lower court granted grandparent visitation. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

¶ 6 The United Supreme Court addressed the constitutionality of section 26.10.160(3) of the Revised Code of Washington which allowed "any person" at "any time" to obtain visitation rights whenever the visitation was in the child's best interest. The United Supreme Court invalidated the statute finding that it impermissibly interfered with "the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children." Troxel, 530 U.S. at ___, 120 S.Ct. at 2060.

¶ 7 The decision was based on several factors. First, the grandparents did not allege and the lower court did not find that the mother was unfit. Id. at 2061. The Court elaborated:

[S]o long as a parent adequately cares for his or her children (i.e., is fit), there will normally be no reason for the State to inject itself into the private realm of the family to further question the ability of that parent to make the best decisions concerning the rearing of that parent's children. Id.

Second, the lower court "gave no special weight at all to [the mother's] determination of her daughters' best interests." Id. at 2062. Third, the lower...

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23 cases
  • Roth v. Weston
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • January 29, 2002
    ...impose that visitation over the parents' objections on a showing that failing to do so would be harmful to the child"); Neal v. Lee, 14 P.3d 547, 550 (Okla. 2000) (reversing trial court decision because "no court has found that ... the children will suffer harm without court ordered grandpa......
  • Blixt v. Blixt
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • September 9, 2002
    ...v. Parkerson, 265 Ga. 189, 193, 194, cert. denied, 516 U.S. 942 (1995); Wickham v. Byrne, 199 111. 2d 309, 317 (2002); Neal v. Lee, 14 P.3d 547, 550 (Okla. 2000); Matter of Herbst, 971 P.2d 395, 398 (Okla. 1998); Hawk v. Hawk, 855 S.W.2d 573, 577, 579 (Tenn. 1993); Williams v. Williams, 256......
  • Ingram v. Knippers
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • June 3, 2003
    ...that this Court's opinion in Scott v. Scott, 2001 OK 9, 19 P.3d 273, controlled. Rejecting the district court's reliance on Neal v. Lee, 2000 OK 90, 14 P.3d 547, and In re Herbst, 1998 OK 100, 971 P.2d 395, the Court of Civil Appeals found that the controlling factor of the present case was......
  • LBS v. LMS
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
    • January 29, 2002
    ...Constitutions where there is no threshold showing of harm) (applied as to Oklahoma Constitution in post-Troxel decision in Neal v. Lee, 14 P.3d 547, 549-50 (Okla.2000)); Hawk v. Hawk, 855 S.W.2d 573, 577 (Tenn.1993) (when no "substantial harm" threatens a child's welfare, the state lacks a ......
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