Court Must Give “Special Weight” To Parent’s Child-Rearing Decisions


The United States Supreme Court affirmed a finding by the state of Washington’s Supreme Court that a parent has a fundamental right to rear their children. The backdrop of the case was a Washington law that allowed a court to order visitation with a child to anyone who petitioned and showed it was in the child’s best interest. A grandparent petitioned and was awarded visitation. The Supreme Court found the Washington law “breathtakingly broad” and reversed the order of visitation. Troxel vs.. Granville (2000) 530 US 57.


California has grandparent and close relative visitation statutes. Family Code, Sections 3101- 3104. The Court of Appeal in Zasueta vs.. Zasueta, 2002 DJDAR 12080 has found the Troxel analysis applicable to the California statute. In so doing it reversed a decision of a trial court to allow visitation over mother’s objection between a grandparent and child. The court did not afford “special weight” to the mother’s decision to not allow the visitation. The record from the trial court showed that the grandparents thought mother was a good mother with the exception of her decision to not allow visits. The trial judge made a finding that mother was unfit only as to her decision to not allow visits. The Appellate court reversed the finding as being unsupported by the evidence. There is a presumption that a fit parent acts and makes decisions that are in the best interest of the children. In quoting Troxel the court noted ” 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.” The matter was referred back to a new judge for rehearing according to the appropriate legal principals.

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