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Grandparents: Keep Out!

Divorces often creates a divide when it comes to families and extended families alike. Due to the fact that not all divorces can be amicable and have families fully agree with the situation, and go on living as they did before, divorces can be damaging both mentally and physically sometimes.

Division of families brings the choice of how to go on after the divorce. This is true for everyone directly and indirectly involved. One big decision can change the way in which an entire family lives their lives. Assets are divided, property is distributed, but so too are family members. So many questions are asked, “Do I live with mom or dad?”, “Where do we go for Thanksgiving?” and many more.

One landmark case also changed the face of visitation for extended family forever on June 5th, 2000.

In the case concerning Troxel vs. Granville, the Supreme Court invalidated a Washington State law that allowed third parties to petition for child visitation rights over parental objections. Simply stating that the parents of the children in question were the only ones to decide who could and couldn’t have visitation rights to their children. The Supreme Court said that “the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court,” noting that such petitions are an unconstitutional intrusion into a parent’s right to raise a child as they see fit.

The ruling effectively eliminated grandparents’ visitation rights when parents object to the visitation. This also extended to any other third party directly involved, such as stepparents or other closely tied relatives. The Supreme Court struck down the Washington grandparent visitation statute because it unconstitutionally infringed on the fundamental parental right to raise their children as they see fit.

Due to this case, the law now requires courts to give parents’ decisions concerning whether, when, and how grandparents will associate with their children. Even though Troxel vs. Granville does not define “special weight,” previous Supreme Court precedent indicates that “special weight” is a strong term signifying very considerable deference to any particular person being allowed visitation with children in question.

Parents will ultimately always have the right to govern who their children can see whilst under the age of 18, and rightly so. This ruling only further makes this natural governing all the more legal and final in the eyes of the law. Divorces do unfortunately take their toll on families in a multitude of different ways. Extended family are sometimes just as affected as those directly involved. However, keeping the best interest of all children involved at the forefront of all decisions is something that the courts have done even more so with this ruling.

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