Troxel v. Granville

530 U.S. 57 (2000)


Tommie and Brad shared a relationship that ended in June 1991. They never married, but they had two daughters. Jennifer and Gary Troxel (P) are Brad’s parents. After Tommie and Brad separated, Brad lived with his parents and regularly brought the daughters home for weekend visitations. Brad committed suicide in 1993. The daughters still saw their grandparents but the in October of 1993, Tommie Grandville informed them they could only see them for a short visit once per month. P filed this action to obtain visitation rights. Washington statutes allowed anyone to file for visitation when it was in the best interests of the child even if there was no change in circumstances. P wanted two weekends per month and two weeks in the summer. D did not oppose visitation but only wanted one day per month with on overnight stay. The court ordered one weekend per month and one week during the summer and four hours on the grandparents’ birthdays. D appealed and also married Kelly. The case was remanded to the trial court to make findings. The trial court found that P was a loving family and could provide the children with contact with their cousins and music. D’s new husband then adopted the children. The Court of Appeals then reversed the lower court’s visitation order holding that nonparents lack standing to seek visitation under the statute unless a custody action is pending. The Court of Appeals looked to the constitutional restrictions on state interference with parents’ fundamental liberty interest in the care, custody, and management of their children. The Supreme Court of Washington granted review and affirmed. That Court found that the plain language of the statute gave P standing to seek visitation, even when custody was not at issue. But the court also found that the statute infringed on the fundamental right of parents to raise their children. The court reasoned that the Constitution permits a State to interfere with that right only to prevent harm or potential harm and the statute fails in that there is no threshold showing of harm to the children. The court also found the statute too broad and it was not the province of the courts or the state to make significant decisions merely because they were better. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.