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DOROTHY B. OLSON v. JERI OLSON FLINN

FEBRUARY 26, 1986

DOROTHY B. OLSON
v.
JERI OLSON FLINN



BEFORE PATTERSON, HAWKINS AND PRATHER

PRATHER, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

This case requires an interpretation of the recently enacted Grandparents' Visitation Rights statutes contained in Miss. Code Ann. 93-16-1 through 93-16-7 (Supp. 1985). The specific issue involved is whether the subsequent adoption of a child by a stepfather terminates the rights of a grandparent who has previously petitioned the chancery court seeking visitation rights under Miss. Code Ann. 93-16-3 (Supp. 1985).

I.

 The facts in this case are not in dispute. The natural parents of John Jeffrey Olson were divorced in January of 1981, when the child was only ten months old. John's mother, Jeri Olson, was given custody of the child, but John visited often with his father and his paternal grandmother. In February of 1982, Jeri Olson moved from Jackson to Natchez with John. Later, in August of 1982, John's natural father was killed in an automobile accident. Jeri Olson subsequently married Mr. Buck Flinn in December of 1982.

 After the marriage of Mrs. Olson to Mr. Flinn, the visitation privileges of John's paternal grandmother, Dorothy Olson, were curtailed and eventually cut off. Mrs. Olson petitioned the Chancery Court of Adams County on April 2, 1984, seeking visitation rights pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. 93-16-3 (Supp.1985). Before Mrs. Olson's petition was acted upon, however, John was legally adopted by Buck Flinn through a decree dated April 23, 1984, and his name was changed to John Jeffrey Olson Flinn.

 Mrs. Flinn then moved to dismiss Mrs. Olson's petition for visitation on the grounds that under Miss. Code Ann. 93-16-7 Mrs. Olson had no right to seek grandparent visitation because of the adoption.

 The chancellor agreed that section 93-16-7 barred Mrs. Olson's rights and her case was dismissed. Mrs. Olson now appeals and assigns as error the following:

 The Chancery Court of Adams County, Mississippi erred in dismissing a complaint for grandparent visitation on the ground the child had been adopted, because the complaint for visitation was filed before the adoption proceeding was begun. It is the grandmother's position that the statute does not bar a complaint for grandparent visitation where the complaint for visitation by the grandparent precedes the adoption proceeding.

 There are two questions to be answered on this appeal:

 (1) Does the adoption of a child terminate the grandparents' legal rights to visitation under Miss. Code Ann. 93-16-3?

 (2) What role does the order of filing play?

 II.

 Does the adoption of a child terminate the grandparents' legal rights to visitation under 93-16-3?

 Under common law principles, there were no legal rights of grandparents for visitation privileges with their grandchildren where the parents did not permit such communication. 59 Am. Jur.2d Parent and Child 92 (1971); 90 Annot., A.L.R. 3d 222. The rationale of the common law rule rested upon the premise that proper parental authority should rest with parents and that a child's best interest would not be served by ...


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