Can Visitation Rights Be Granted to a Person If It Serves In the Interest of the Child ?
In Troxel v. Granville (530 US 57, supra) the United States Supreme Court addressed the constitutionality of a non-parental visitation statute in the State of Washington.
The Court held the statute invalid, on substantive due process grounds, as impermissibly interfering with the "fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children." (Troxel v. Granville, supra, 530 US, at 66.)
The Supreme Court's reasons for finding the Washington State court's intervention to be unconstitutional included the State court's failure to give any special weight to the parent's determination of the child's best interest, and that there was no requirement that the parent be shown to be unfit.
The Court expressly declined to reach the question of whether parental unfitness was always a prerequisite in order to justify intervention in decisions concerning custody and visitation.
It also suggested that intervention in custody and visitation decisions might be justified when the intervention was "founded on ... special factors," rather than merely a best interest analysis. (Troxel v. Granville, supra, 530 US, at 68.)
The within matter falls squarely within the Supreme Court's decision in Troxel v. Granville (supra). In Troxel, Tommie Granville and Brad Troxel had two daughters.
In May 1993, Brad Troxel committed suicide.
In December 1993, Brad's parents, Jenifer and Gary Troxel, petitioned the Washington Superior Court for Skagit County for the right to visit their two granddaughters, pursuant to section 26.10.160 (3) of the Revised Code of Washington, which stated:
"Any person may petition the court for visitation rights at any time including, but not limited to, custody proceedings.
The court may order visitation rights for any person when visitation may serve the best interest of the child whether or not there has been any change of circumstances."