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Supreme Court Decision Deals a Blow to Grandparents Seeking Visitation Rights

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RALEIGH — In many families, grandparents are a big part of the children's lives. In some families, grandparents have to fight to see their grandchildren.

"I have a locket which was given to me when my granddaughter was a very, very little girl," says grandparent Vicky Vandervort.

The bond between grandparents and grandchildren is vital. The bond between Vandervort and her two grandchildren was broken in 1998 when Vandervort's daughter cut ties with her mother.

"It breaks my heart, it's ruined my life. I've been depressed for two years," she says.

In many states, including North Carolina, grandparents have no legal rights. Any chance of that changing was dashed Monday when theU.S. Supreme Courtupheld the right of parents to decide who their children see.

"There's not a thing I can do. That's not right. Children should not be able to be used by their parents as weapons for any reason. The children are being hurt," says Vandervort.

Some parents applaud the decision.

"I believe it's a victory for all families in the U.S. and in North Carolina," says parent Al Hartkopf.

As a parent, Hartkopf has personal experience with the issue. He believes parents, not courts, should decide who sees the children.

"We'll see families trying to work things out around the kitchen table, on the front porch or what have you, and they won't try to work them out in court," he says.

For the sake of the children, everyone hopes these disputes can be worked out without lawyers.

North Carolina does allow grandparents to petition the court for visitation in a limited situation if the parents are going through a divorce.

Even then, the court must determine that the visitation is in the best interest of the child.

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Amanda Lamb, Reporter
Edward Wilson, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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