Troxel v. Granville

LOCATION:Skagit County Superior Court

DOCKET NO.: 99-138
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 530 US 57 (2000)
ARGUED: Jan 12, 2000
DECIDED: Jun 05, 2000

Catherine W. Smith – Argued the cause for respondent
Mark D. Olson – Argued the cause for petitioners

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 person” to petition for visitation rights “at any time” and 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.


Does the Washington statute, which allows any person to petition for a court-ordered right to see a child over a custodial parent’s objection if such visitation is found to be in the child’s best interest, unconstitutionally interfere with the fundamental right of parents to rear their children?

Media for Troxel v. Granville

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – January 12, 2000 in Troxel v. Granville

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 05, 2000 in Troxel v. Granville

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 99-138, Troxel against Granville will be announced by Justice O’Connor.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

This case is here on writ of certiorari to The Supreme Court of the State of Washington.

Section 26.10.160(3) of the Revised Code of Washington permits any person to petition a superior court at any time for the right to visit with a child and authorizes the court to grant a Visitation Right whenever visitation may serve the best interest of the child.

In this case the petitioners, Jennifer and Gary Troxel filed a petition under the Washington statute for the right to visit their granddaughters, the children of their deceased son.

The Respondent, Tommie Granville, the mother of the children, opposed the petition.

Granville agreed that her daughter should spend some time with their grandparents, but opposed the petition, because she objected to the amount of visitation asked for by the Troxels.

The Washington Superior Court granted the petition and entered a decree ordering visitation, one week in a month, one week during the summer, four hours on both of the grandparents’ birthdays.

The case ultimately reached the Washington Supreme Court, which held that the State’s visitation statute unconstitutionally interferes with the fundamental right of parents to rear their children.

Unfortunately, the members of this Court were no more able to reach a resolution than were the parties to the case.

In a series of opinions filed with the Clerk of the Court today, we affirm the judgment of the Washington Supreme Court.

A plurality of four Justices; myself, the Chief Justice, Justice Ginsburg and Justice Breyer would affirm the judgment on the grounds that the application of the Washington Statute to Granville and her family violated her fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody and control of her children.

Justice Souter, who has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, agrees that the Washington statute violates the right of parents to rear their children but would affirm the judgment solely on the ground that the statute is unconstitutional on its face.

Justice Thomas who has also filed an opinion concurring in the judgment agrees that our Court has recognized a fundamental right of parents to rear their children, and would affirm on the ground that Washington lacks even a compelling interest in second guessing, a fit parents’ decision regarding visitation with third parties.

Justices Stevens, Scalia and Kennedy had each filed dissenting opinions.