Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Troxel Case And Grandparent Visitaion Rights

There are several aspects to "grandparents rights" and one of our readers asked about the Troxel Case. In this lull of the holiday I thought I would share this with you. Thanks goes to friend, Cheryl, for locating this information for us.

Facts of the Case:
During Tommie Granville and Brad Troxel's relationship, which ended in 1991, they had two daughters. Until Brad's suicide in 1993, Brad's parents Jenifer and Gary Troxel, the paternal grandparents, had regularly seen their granddaughters on weekends. However, after Brad's suicide, Granville informed the Troxels that she wished to reduced their visitation time to one short visit per month. The Troxels filed suit for the right to visit their grandchildren, under section 26.10.160(3) of the Revised Code of Washington, which permits "any person" to petition for visitation rights "at any time" and authorizes state superior courts to grant such rights whenever visitation may serve a child's best interest. Granville did not oppose the petition outright but did oppose the amount of visitation time sought by the Troxels. Subsequently, a Washington Superior Court ordered more visitation than Granville desired. On appeal, the Washington Court of Appeals reversed that decision, holding that non-parents lacked standing to sue under the statute. In affirming, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the statute unconstitutionally interfered with parents' right to rear their children.

Does the Washington statute, which allows any person to petition for a court-ordered right to see a child over a custodial parent's objection if such visitation is found to be in the child's best interest, unconstitutionally interfere with the fundamental right of parents to rear their children?

Yes. In a 6-3 decision delivered by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the Court held that the Washington Statute violated the right of parents, under the due process clause of the Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment, to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children. Justice O'Connor wrote for the Court that "[t]he liberty interest at issue in this case -- the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children -- is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court." Justices John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia, and Anthony Kennedy dissented.


Anonymous said...

Yes, but that is the first thing that I got quoted when I sought visitation with CPS once my grandchild was removed. They are using this to say this is interfering with "their" parental rights. As far as I know, CPS is not the parent even when the child is removed. I have studied this case and it is not being used appropriately by the state.

mgirl said...

I agree with the court ruling. But the last commenter was correct in that CPS is NOT and NEVER WILL be the PARENT. And "the best interest of the child" isn't even supposed to be addressed until AFTER parental rights are terminated (which is an entirely different subject).

Parents and only parents have the right and responsibility to determine WHO spends time with their children and HOW MUCH time.

Interestingly, right after this ruling, I know of a grandmother who "won" visits w/ her grandchildren every 3rd weekend, despite the fact that she only had a quasi-relationship with the older granddaughter. Partly why she received visits was b/c the girls were not with their mother anymore, but with maternal uncle and aunt (without CPS involvement, BTW).

It didn't matter that the grandmother continually fed the girls things they were allergic to, resulting in several trips to the hospital and doctor after weekend visits. And the girls were always very emotionally upset about having to go, and in worse shape after the visits.

Anyway, my main point is that NOBODY has the right to interfere in a parent's choice for their child. NOBODY. The state courts got this one right. I just wish it was more broadly interpreted and not just to visits.