There is one case that most often comes up when discussing grandparents’ rights: Troxel vs. Granville. Tommie Granville and Brad Troxel were the unmarried parents of two girls. The relationship ended and Troxel would often take his daughters to see their grandparents at their home. He eventually committed suicide, and Tommie got remarried. After her marriage, her new husband legally adopted the two girls, and she tried to limit visits from the Troxels. The Troxels responded by filing suit based on the Washington state statute, which didn’t specifically address grandparents, but allowed third parties to file for visitation. The state Supreme Court ruled that the statute was too broad; the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that decision. The Court found that the state should not inject itself into family affairs, that fit parents should be trusted that they are acting in the best interests of their children, and that is not the place of government to question parents’ decisions.
In an interview with PJ Media, Stephen T. Priestap, an attorney specializing in divorce and family law, explained the Troxel decision and how it impacted state statutes:
This is a state law issue and will always be a state law issue, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Troxel case; that’s because virtually every state has its own “grandparents’ rights” statute. To broadly generalize, there are basically two types of grandparents’ rights statutes — restrictive and permissive. The law from Washington that was struck down was a permissive statute, and the problem with it basically was that it created a legal presumption that grandparent visitation was in the best interests of children, thus putting a burden on parents to show that it wasn’t. The Court felt the presumption should be in the parents’ favor, and that the grandparents should have to show that it’s in the children’s best interest. The ruling had little effect on more restrictive statutes, which generally say that grandparents can get visitation only in the event of the parents’ divorce or death of one parent. These types of laws are still viable and are still widely enforced in many states. As to the more permissive statutes, they have generally still been upheld as long as the burden is put on the grandparents to show that it’s in the child’s best interests to maintain contact, and since often this burden can be met fairly easily, grandparents’ rights are still alive and well in these states, but generally the actual visitation is limited to one or two nights in a month and perhaps some holiday contact. Any more extensive visitation beyond that may well risk a challenge based on the Troxel ruling. So, to summarize: restrictive state, probably no visitation unless there’s a death or divorce; permissive state, you can probably get some visitation but it will be pretty limited.
So it seems that courts aren’t out to completely cut off grandparents, but that they will, in most cases, rule against them.
That isn’t acceptable to some. There are those who fight for the so-called right of grandparents to have access to their grandchildren. The Grandparents Rights Organization, for example, believes that the bond between grandparent and grandchild should never be broken, and strives to confront what it sees as an attack.
But should grandparents really have a right to do any of this?