Lawyer: State law makes parental rights difficult for grandparents

Reporter: Corey Lazar
Published: Updated:

NORTH PORT, Fla. – Chance Walsh’s grandparents believe they could’ve made a difference in the infant’s life – if state laws were different.

Sally Susino and John Murawski said they were barred access to the home of their infant grandson after he was found dead in a remote wooded area in North Port in October 2015.

“We were out there 13.5 hours trying to gain access, legally, to get in to the apartment to find out what had happened to Chance,” Murawski said.

They initially worried about the child’s health after they didn’t hear from his mother, Kristen Bury, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Wednesday in connection to the baby’s death.

Bury’s husband, Joseph Walsh, is charged with second-degree murder.

“People need to stand up and be their voice,” Susino said between sobs. “Stand up and say something when you see a child being hurt or you think something is wrong.”

Family attorney Luis Insignares said state law makes it difficult for grandparents to get involved.

In some cases, a grandparent can try to convince a court to grant them temporary custody of a child they believe is in danger, Insignares said. But grandparents are usually only successful if the child is already in their care.

“It can be virtually, literally impossible sometimes for a grandparent to obtain custody of a child,” he said. “In short of taking things in to their own hands, which I am not suggesting, there is no law that protects grandparents themselves to protect a child.”

Chance’s grandparents said they will work to get state custody laws changed.

For now, they are struggling to wrap their heads around their loss.

“This is a double tragedy for us,” Susino said. “Not only am I losing my daughter, I am losing my grandson.”

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