Troxel v. Granville Case Brief

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 personto petition for visitation rights at any timeand 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.

Why is the case important?

The paternal grandparents brought a petition requesting visitation of their granddaughters. The mother agreed to some visitation, but did not agree to the extended visitation requested. Mother appealed the court’s granting of visitation as unconstitutional.

Question

Does the Washington statute allowing any person to petition for visitation rights at any time infringe on the liberty interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children?

ANSWER

The statute unconstitutionally infringes on the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Nationwide, enactment of nonparental visitation statutes have attempted to recognize that children should have the opportunity to benefit from relationships with statutorily specified persons such as grandparents. The cost of this is a substantial burden on the traditional parent-child relationship. The liberty interest of parents in the care, custody and control of their children is perhaps the oldest fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.

CONCLUSION

On certiorari, the United States Supreme Court affirmed. Although unable to agree on an opinion, six members of the court agreed that application of the state statute to allow visitation rights to the paternal grandparents violated the mother’s right under the due process clause of the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment to bring up her children.

  • Advocates: Catherine W. Smith Argued the cause for respondent Mark D. Olson Argued the cause for petitioners
  • Petitioner: Troxel
  • Respondent: Granville
  • DECIDED BY:Rehnquist Court
  • Location: Skagit County Superior Court
Citation: 530 US 57 (2000)
Argued: Jan 12, 2000
Decided: Jun 5, 2000
Troxel v. Granville Case Brief