Grandparents Aren't the Boss of You!
Brad Troxel and Tommie Granville, two Washington state residents, had a
romantic relationship in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Their two daughters,
Isabelle and Natalie were their children from that relationship. Sadly,
the relationship ended. Brad moved out and moved in with his parents,
Jenifer and Gary Troxel, the girls' paternal grandparents.
Brad exercised his visitation rights and brought his daughters over to
his parents' home to share his visitation, and for two years, Isabelle
and Natalie shared a close relationship with Jenifer and Gary.
In May 1993, Brad committed suicide. However, Jenifer and Gary continued
to see their granddaughters on a regular basis until Tommi informed the
Troxels that she wanted to limit the visitations. At the time, current
Washington state law allowed for third-party visitations, if the court
believed it was in the best interests of the child or children. In response
to Tommie's withholding of visitation, Jenifer and Gary, filed a court
action to establish their own visitation rights with their granddaughters.
The court determined it was in the best interests of Isabelle and Natalie
to continue to see their grandparents, and awarded the Troxels visitation
of one weekend per month, one week during the summer and four hours on
each of the Troxels' birthdays.
Tommie appealed – all the way up the court ladder to the United States
The US Supreme Court reversed the Washington state court and appellate
courts decisions, holding that under the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, parents had a fundamental right to raise
their children without government interference. The Justices ruled that
parents were presumed to be raising their children properly, and the government
had no authority, without substantial proof to the contrary, to interfere
with those parents. In other words, the government had no authority to
question whether parents were fit to raise their children, without substantial
evidence showing they weren't fit. In this case, the court had no
authority to question Tommie's judgment in allowing the Troxels visitation,
because there was no evidence to indicate Tommie was an unfit mother.
It should also be noted that parents can make visitation agreements with
third parties, and the courts will usually uphold those agreements.