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Last Updated: 02/23/2018

 Article of Interest - Your Rights

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Supreme Court Affirms Family Rights

by Cheryl Barnes from

"The liberty interest at issue in this case - 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 court ruled.

The court ruled that unless the parents had been found unfit, the state should not interfere in their child rearing decisions. "Therefore, neither social workers nor judges have the right to place children in foster care, mandate psychological reviews, or require parents or children meet with social workers when a fit parent is available," said Eric Werme, a Family Advocate in New Hampshire.

The case centers on a grandparent who sought visitation of the children against the parentsí wishes. The court concluded, "if a fit parent's decision of this kind at issue here becomes subject to judicial review, the court must accord at least some special weight to the parent's own determination."

"The decision does not center on limiting grandparents' rights. Rather it strongly affirms parents' rights to raise a family as they see fit, as long as the parents have not been found unfit," says Werme.

In Child Protection cases where the parents have been ruled unfit, the grandparents may still seek to intervene into those cases. But this case protects families from state interference in raising their children when they haven't been ruled unfit. "As we have explained, the Due Process Clause does not permit a State to infringe on the fundamental right of parents to make child rearing decisions simply because a state judge believes a better decision could be made," ruled the court.

The Court strongly upheld general parental rights within the ruling as well:

"In a long line of cases, we have held that, in addition to the specific freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights, the 'liberty' specially protected by the Due Process Clause includes the right ... to direct the education and upbringing of one's children.

"In [our] view, a right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children is among the "unalienable Rights" with which the Declaration of Independence proclaims "all Men are endowed by their Creator." And in [our] view that right is also among the "other [rights] retained by the people" which the Ninth Amendment says the Constitution's enumeration of rights "shall not be construed to deny or disparage," the court stated.

The Court ended the case without taking the usual step of remanding the case to the lower court for further proceedings. "The decision leaves little wiggle room," says Werme.

The full case citation is TROXEL v. GRANVILLE, 530 U.S. ___ (2000) and it can be found on the internet at
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