Over the weekend I recieved the following email:
Hi No Drama Momma!
You’re a lawyer, so I was wondering if I could get your take on something. My parents are, at least in some ways, good people. My father is an alcoholic, and my mother can never say no to him (i.e., driving!). I don’t trust my dad to stay sober or at least not drive drunk, so I don’t let them see my three children without me around. Now they want to have the kids visit for a weekend, without me. I said no, but they say they have a legal right to see their grandkids. Is that true?
Before I say anything else, I want to make it clear that while I am a practicing lawyer, family law is not my specialty. Furthermore, family law is under state jurisdiction, and each state has different laws. That being said, Anonymous happened to ask a question that is a matter of federal law, not state, and I can answer it. Yay! 🙂
In most situations, grandparents do not have visitation rights. Nearly every state has a statute that allows grandparents to petition the court for the right to visit the grandchildren. However, in Troxel v. Granville, the Supreme Court of the United States held that state courts considering non-parent visitation petitions must apply “a presumption that fit parents act in the best interests of their children.” Troxel requires state courts to give “special weight” to a fit parent’s decision to deny non-parent visitation. This is because “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.” The deference provided to the parent will only be overcome by some compelling governmental interest and overwhelmingly clear factual circumstances supporting that governmental interest.
That does not seem to be the case here. I think it’s safe to say your kids won’t be forced to spend the night with Grandma and Grandpa.
Kudos to you, Anonymous, for allowing the grandparents to see the children at all. Some people would just cut ties, but you seem to have found a solution that works–especially now that you can tell your parents this isn’t a case they can win. Good luck to you.