Grandparent visitation laws go too far

The Supreme Court has already ruled that parents, not the government, should decide who visits their children.


Children generally benefit from having a strong, ongoing relationship with their grandparents. It's good for families and good for society.

However, it should not be the role of state government or any government to make laws mandating grandparents have rights to visit with their grandchildren that usurp parental rights.

When parents take action to limit time their children spend with grandparents or even if they forbid any interaction between their children and grandparents, that should be their decision. It's simply not the government's place to decide if the reason the parents give is valid.

Parents have a right to raise their children anyway they see fit as long as the children are not harmed.

Nearly a dozen years ago the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Washington state law that essentially gave grandparents authority to petition the court for visitation. The high court upheld a ruling by the state Supreme Court that determined the state law went too far.

"The family entity is the core element upon which modern civilization is founded," the Washington Supreme Court wrote. "A parent's constitutionally protected right to rear his or her children without state interference has been recognized as a fundamental interest ... and also as a fundamental right derived from the privacy rights inherent in the Constitution."

Since that ruling, several states have enacted laws that nibble around the edges of the Supreme Court decision in the hope of finding middle ground in disputes between parents and grandparents.

It looks like this matter is headed back to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Over the summer. Alabama's Supreme Court struck down its law as unconstitutional because it included grandparent visitation rights over competent parents' objections. Attorneys are now looking to the nation's high court to overrule the state court and are backed by backed by officials in Ohio, Hawaii, Louisiana, Michigan and Washington.

These disputes are no doubt heartbreaking. We get that. Yet, there are situations in which the parents truly believe their decision is in the best interests of their family.

The Supreme Court got it right in 2000. Ultimately, this is a matter that should be left with parents to resolve, not the government.


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