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 Supreme Court!
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.