In re S.B.L
In In re S.B.L., 150 Vt. 294, 553 A.2d 1078 (1988)the Court decided the crux of the issue in this case-how the constitutional right of a parent to a custodial relationship with her child is protected in a contest between the parent and a third party who seeks guardianship of the child.
There, the Court concluded that "granting guardianship to a third person in preference to a parent who has demonstrated a commitment to parenthood based solely on a judicial determination of the best interests of the child-without first requiring the third party to demonstrate that the parent is unfit-denies the natural parent due process of law." 150 Vt. at 305, 553 A.2d at 1085.
In S.B.L., a biological father of a child born out of wedlock sought custody from S.B.L.'s grandfather after the death of the child's mother in an automobile accident. Because he was not married to S.B.L.'s mother, the father was unable to take advantage of a statute, 14 V.S.A. 2641, declaring the father and mother, if competent, the joint guardians of a "legitimate minor child."