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Grandparents Fight to Keep Daughter-In-Law From Moving

Aired May 20, 2003 - 20:01   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Our top story: What kind of rights do grandparents have when it comes to raising a child?
In Pittsburgh, the grandparents of a three-year-old boy and their widowed daughter-in-law are locked in a bitter custody fight. The grandparents have gone to court to keep the grandson's mother from moving with him to North Carolina to start a new life. We'll talk to both sides in a moment.

First, a bit of background. Rebecca Hower of KDK in Pittsburgh spent time with the mother in Pennsylvania.


BONNIE MILLER, MOTHER: He's mine. He's mine. He's mine.

REBECCA HOWER, KDKA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bonnie Miller lost her husband, Jeff, to leukemia a little over a year ago. She has a three-year-old son, Kevin.

Recently, Bonnie decided to move to North Carolina with her new fiance. She secured a job, bought a house and sold her old house in Westmoreland County.

But before all that, she decided it was only right to tell her late husband's parents her plans.

B. MILLER: They were not happy but stated they could not stop me.

HOWER: But stop her they did. Bonnie says she was noticed in April that her in-laws had won a temporary court order, stating she could not move more than 25 miles from her old home, and she had to give them partial custody of Kevin.

B. MILLER: It feels like I'm discriminated against because I'm a widow. It makes me less of a parent because I don't have the husband with me, that grandparents can try and step in and actually have my son and determine where I can and cannot live.

HOWER: Bonnie says the case will go to trial in June. The outcome will be precedent-setting.

B. MILLER: In my heart, I believe that grandparents should have the right to know their grandchild. I believe that it's a parent's right to determine when and where that happens. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER: To help set up our debate tonight, again Rebecca Hower of our affiliate Pittsburgh, KDKA.

Tonight we're joined by both sides in this case. Bonnie Miller is the widowed mother trying to move with her son back to North Carolina. She and her attorney, Karen Ferry (ph), are live in Pittsburgh.

Also in Pittsburgh tonight, joining us in a moment, is Rose Miller. She's Bonnie's mother-in-law and the boy's grandmother. Her attorney, Carol Hanna (ph), also with her.

I want to thank all you for being with us tonight.

Bonnie, first to you. Knowing that you want to move to North Carolina, and take Kevin essentially away from your grandmother, the paternal grandparents here. What is their right within the family to have a say in this matter?

B. MILLER: I feel as a fit parent, they have no right in this. I have not denied visitation to them. Grandparents do it all the time where they go to visit their grandchild. They have no right to determine where I can and cannot live.

HEMMER: Visitation means what? Partial custody? What does that amount to?

B. MILLER: They're filing for partial custody, which means that they can bring the child back to their home, and I have not even denied that either.

HEMMER: What would you agree to, then, overall?

B. MILLER: We have already offered them, which has been on the table since April 10, we offered them every other weekend that they could come down to North Carolina to visit my son, and that they could have two weeks out of the summer that they could bring him back to Pennsylvania.

HEMMER: All right. I understand your argument.

Want to get to the grandmother now, Rose Miller. What do you believe right now -- Rose, good evening to you, live in Pittsburgh as well. What do you believe right now is your right knowing that the mother is here, she's the natural parent. As the grandmother, what do you want?

ROSE MILLER, SUING FOR CUSTODY OF GRANDMOTHER: I just want to make sure that Kevin's safe and that he's not taken to somewhere where he knows no one, and that he remains close to his very extended family here who he has bonded with.

HEMMER: Why do you believe he would not be safe? What leads to you say that? R. MILLER: Well, the man that she's with she hasn't known that long. None of us know anything about him, because he's from North Carolina and I just don't think it's good for him to be -- especially at this time, it's only been 14 months since his father died. I don't think it's good for him to be away from everyone he's ever known since he's been born.

HEMMER: But you heard what Bonnie said, she'd give you visitation rights down in North Carolina, also in the summertime. What's wrong with that? Why not meet it halfway?

R. MILLER: Well, first of all, Kevin, not only likes to see his grandparents, he loves to come to our neighborhood. We've lived there for 32 years. He knows everyone there. He has little kids he plays with there. My grandchildren all come there.

So it's not so much that he wants to see just us, but he likes our neighborhood also. He feels very at home there because I helped raise him since the time he was six months old.

HEMMER: Yes, and I think also what we're losing in here is the whole argument about Kevin. What about that Bonnie? What's the damage to him right now and your son?

B. MILLER: I feel that he knows the pressure. he knows the tension between the grandparents and I. It used to be a very loving family, and what could still have been a very loving family has turned into, I feel, very harming.

They've said very negative things about me. I still -- I still want them to get to know their grandson, and still in contact with their grandson. I'm not denying that. I just feel as a fit parent that I can choose where I can raise my son.

And as far as not knowing anybody down there, he knows my fiance's family, he's met the neighborhood kids down there, he plays with them. I still want Kevin to know his family. I'm not denying that.

HEMMER: Rose, if you go court in the first part of June, what will you be happy getting out of this, knowing that's already been a family feud. You've already lost your son, the father of young Kevin.

R. MILLER: I will be happy if some one can tell me that this is going to be in the best interest of my grandson, and then I won't even argue it.

HEMMER: We'll find out on the 4th of June. Rose miller, thanks. Bonnie Miller as well for talking to us tonight in Pittsburgh. Best of luck getting this sorted out and the best of luck to Kevin, the young boy caught in the middle.


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