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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Grandparents' Rights Test Case

My friend Steven Morrison at North Dakota School of Law has sent me two interesting articles, here and here, about a grandparents’ rights cases heating up in North Dakota this week, complete with protests at the courthouse.  In essence, a couple is fighting a judge’s order permitting their 16-year-old child’s grandparents generous visitation rights.  This brings to mind the 2000 United States Supreme Court case of Troxel v. Granville, which struck down a Washington statute that allowed any third party to sue for visitation as a violation of parents’ 14th Amendment right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.

Troxel struck down the Washington statute on grounds of over-breadth, but the Court refused to define the precise scope of the parental constitutional right.  While it was clear that visitation statutes had to be narrower in scope (such as being limited to grandparent visitation if in the best interest of the child), it was unclear at which point such a statute would infringe on parents' constitutional rights. 

Perhaps this will be the case to push the U.S. Supreme Court to define the contours of parents’ constitutional rights in the grandparents' visitation context; it will be interesting to watch.

Posted by Margaret Ryznar on September 11, 2013 at 01:45 PM | Permalink

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Grandparents' rights may sound attractive, but it is really a euphemism for judicial interference in families. One would hope that conservatives, liberals, and libertarians would all recognize that the government ought to stay out of family decisions unless intervention is absolutely necessary.

Posted by: Steven Lubet | Sep 11, 2013 2:25:40 PM

Yes, no doubt this is judicial interference in the nuclear family, especially when the parents are together and in agreement.

Posted by: Margaret Ryznar | Sep 13, 2013 11:54:19 PM

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