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MORRIS DEVON HOWELL and HELEN A. HOWELL v. DEBORAH ANN ROGERS and TIMOTHY S. ROGERS

OCTOBER 18, 1989

MORRIS DEVON HOWELL and HELEN A. HOWELL
v.
DEBORAH ANN ROGERS and TIMOTHY S. ROGERS



BEFORE DAN LEE, P.J., PITTMAN and BLASS, JJ.

BLASS, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

This decision addresses an appeal from a judgment entered in the Chancery Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County, Mississippi, which dismissed the appellants' complaint

seeking grandparents' visitation rights.

 The Grandparents' Visitation Rights Statutes, appearing in Mississippi Code Annotated 93-16-1 through 93-16-7 (Supp. 1988) (approved April 1, 1986), must be examined to determine whether or not the grandparents have standing to seek visitation in this case. The central issue to be resolved is whether the adoption of a child by the spouse of one of its natural parents terminates the rights of its grandparents on the side of the other natural parent.

 I.

 FACTS

 The appellants, Helen A. Howell and Morris Devon Howell, are the paternal grandmother and step-grandfather of Chance Fielding Rogers. The natural parents of Chance Rogers were divorced on May 13, 1983, and custody of Chance was awarded to his natural mother. The natural mother and step-father adopted Chance, and subsequent to the adoption, the natural father died in December of 1986.

 On May 28, 1987, the paternal grandparents filed their complaint for visitation, and the trial was held on October 12, 1987. The chancery court ruled that under the Grandparents' Visitation Rights Statutes, 93-16-1, et seq. (1972), the grandparents had no standing to seek visitation with the child. The chancery court reached its decision under authority of Olson v. Finn, 484 So. 2d 1015 (Miss. 1986). The Court reasoned that Olson required dismissal in that grandparent visitation could not be ordered in such case, but rather such visitation should be voluntary.

 II.

 DOES THE ADOPTION OF A CHILD TERMINATE THE GRANDPARENTS' LEGAL RIGHTS TO VISITATION UNDER 93-16-3?

 The case of Olson v. Finn, 484 So. 2d at 1017, held that an adoption by a step-parent after the death of one of the natural parents operated to terminate visitation rights of the natural grandparents except as to the natural parent who is the spouse of the adopting parents. In so holding, the Olson Court relied upon Miss. Code Ann. 93-16-3 and 93-16-7 (Supp. 1985). Olson, 484 So. 2d at 1017.

 The Court in Olson was of the opinion that the legislature, by enacting 93-16-7, Miss. Code Ann. (Supp. 1985), decided that

 the best interests of the child lay in the termination of the natural grandparents' visitation rights upon adoption. The Court recognized the harshness of its holding, which was dictated by the ...


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