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How the Troxel Decision Affected Third Party Visitation

Back in 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court undertook a case that dealt with grandparent visitation rights. The famous case is known as Troxel vs. Gainville and caused The Supreme Court to review a case from Washington where the grandparents had been allowed visitation of their grandchildren after the parents declared a divorce. The parents, particularly the mother, did not approve of the visitation and appealed to The Supreme Court. This high court decided that while the parents have a right to make decisions for their children, they shouldn’t be allowed to restrict third party visitations. This action, they declared, was unconstitutional.

They believed that allowing a nonparent to petition for visitation rights was not assault to the integrity of the family. Therefore, they said that the lower court applied their statute incorrectly. The Washington Court of Appeals had said that the grandparent’s request for more visitation time was for the wellbeing of the children, and the courts agreed. However, The Supreme Court said that they don’t believe that it is fair or just to allow a person to petition to alter a parent’s rights to make decisions for their kids.

Many states have provisions like Washington’s that don’t regard a third-party visitation as a restriction on the rights of a parent that is trying to raise his or her child. However, since the Troxel decision, every time a grandparent’s visitation rights case comes up the court must always start in the favor of the parents and evaluate the case from that angle. In Troxel vs.Gainville, the grandparents were allowed one non-overnight visit with the children each month, with the mothers permission. If you are a parent and are concerned about grandparents that will fight for visitation after your divorce, the talk to a family law attorney today!