There has been no resolution almost a week after attorneys for Rusty Sneiderman’s parents and his widow Andrea sparred in Fulton Superior Court over issues of a civil suit filed in March by Donald and Marilyn Sneiderman to obtain court-ordered visitation rights with their two grandchildren.
Rusty Sneiderman’s parents, who allege the widow has limited their contact with her two children, have asked Fulton County Superior Court Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane to appoint a guardian to settle their visitation squabble, a request that Andrea Sneiderman and her attorneys are opposing.
“She is not opposed to (the grandparents) visitation with the children, but she is opposed to a court-ordered visitation,” the widow’s lawyer, Howard Gold, argued July 10 before Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane.
Gold pointed out that this suit, because it was filed in March, must be determined on the basis of the old state statutes, which were in effect until May 1.
The old statutes required “actual proof that the health and welfare of the children will be harmed if visitation is not permitted,” Gold explained. Since May 1, the new statutes eased the provisions dealing with actual proof of harm, he pointed out.
“They have to show actual physical, emotional harm right now,” Gold said in his arguments before the court.
Gold also contended that Andrea Sneiderman has provided opportunities for visitation of the children with their grandparents, although it was pointed out that has mainly only occurred during the past year after the Sneidermans filed their civil suit.
Donald and Marilyn Sneidermans’ attorney, Randy Kessler, argued that the grandparents are only allowed a few hours of visitation with the children in a hotel and that the widow is harming the children by not allowing them to visit their grandparents and other relatives in Ohio as they did before Rusty Sneiderman was murdered November 18, 2010.
Prior to Sneiderman’s death, the children and grandchildren typically visited each other for weekends twice a year, one in Ohio and one in Georgia, and they were “skyping” every week, the court was told. In recent months the grandparents have had two day visits with the children in Georgia, in May and the last one on June 30.
Kessler told the court, the Sneidermans are “nice people who want to spend some time with their grandchildren. These children should know their paternal grandparents.” Kessler said the grandparents want someone—a guardian—“to determine what is best for the children.”
Judge Lane appeared not to be persuaded by Kessler’s arguments.
“The issue here doesn’t seem to be is there any harm. The issue here is should they spend a few hours in a hotel [with Don and Marilyn Sneiderman] or go to Cleveland,” Lane said. “You’ve conceded you already have visitations; you just don’t have all you want.”
Judge Lane told Kessler she sees “the issue being so narrow,” how the grandchildren will be harmed by not visiting with the grandparents.
In addition to opposing the court-appointed guardian, Andrea Sneiderman’s attorneys also sought limitation on the discovery that could be carried out related to the suit by Kessler and his team.
Gold listed four limitations they want the court to impose on any discovery: On Andrea Sneiderman’s financial status, income, assets, etc., on her professional and personal life, on the circumstances surrounding the death of her husband, and the caring for the children outside of grandparent visits.
Gold told the judge, “We don’t want this to be a stalking horse for the wrongful death case,” which has been separately filed against Andrea Sneiderman by Rusty Sneiderman’s older brother, Steve Sneiderman.
Kessler countered, “She doesn’t want anyone to see what’s going on.”
Judge Lane reportedly was expected to rule by the end of last week on the guardian appointment and the scope of discovery. But those rulings had not happened by this past Monday morning, according to Kessler.
The two sides attempted mediation but reached an impasse June 28 — a little more than a week after Andrea Sneiderman sued her brother-in-law for defamation.
Several times during the court hearing July 10 both attorneys entertained discussions involving the trial, Rusty Sneiderman’s murder and statements made by his parents, brother and the DeKalb District Attorney Robert James suggesting Andrea’s involvement in the killing.
Andrea Sneiderman, whose former boss, Hemy Neuman, was convicted in March of murdering her husband outside a Dunwoody daycare facility, said in a court filing that her in-laws are not acting in the “best interests” of their grandchildren by alleging she was involved in her spouse’s death.
Don and Marilyn Sneiderman have said they believe Andrea was involved in their son Rusty’s shooting, a suspicion shared by both the prosecution and the defense in the Neuman trial.
But nearly four months have passed since Neuman’s conviction for the November 2010 killing, and DeKalb DA James isn’t saying whether he’ll seek an indictment of Andrea Sneiderman.