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Troxel v. Granville

Supreme Court of the United States

January 12, 2000, Argued ; June 5, 2000, Decided

No. 99-138


 [*60]  [**2057]  [***53]     JUSTICE O'CONNOR announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE GINSBURG, and JUSTICE BREYER join.

Section 26.10.160(3) of the Revised Code of Washington permits "any person" to petition a superior court for visitation rights "at any time," and authorizes that court to grant such visitation rights whenever "visitation may serve the best interest of the child." Petitioners Jenifer and Gary Troxel petitioned a Washington Superior Court for the right to visit their grandchildren, Isabelle and Natalie Troxel. Respondent Tommie Granville, the mother of Isabelle and Natalie,  [****7]  opposed the petition. The case ultimately reached the Washington Supreme Court, which held that § 26.10.160(3) unconstitutionally interferes with the fundamental right of parents to rear their children.

Tommie Granville and Brad Troxel shared a relationship that ended in June 1991. The two never married, but they had two daughters, Isabelle and Natalie. Jenifer and Gary Troxel are Brad's parents, and thus the paternal grandparents of Isabelle and Natalie. After Tommie and Brad separated in 1991, Brad lived with his parents and regularly brought his daughters to his parents' home for weekend visitation. Brad committed suicide in May 1993. Although the Troxels at first continued to see Isabelle and Natalie on a regular basis after their son's death, Tommie Granville informed  [*61]  the Troxels in October 1993 that she wished to limit their visitation with her daughters to one short visit per month. In re Smith, 137 Wn.2d 1, 6, 969 P.2d 21, 23-24 (1998); In re Troxel, 87 Wn. App. 131, 133, 940 P.2d 698, 698-699 (1997). [***54]  

In December 1993, the Troxels commenced the present action by filing, in the Washington Superior Court for Skagit County, a petition [****8]  to obtain visitation rights with Isabelle and Natalie. The Troxels filed their petition under two Washington statutes, Wash. Rev. Code §§ 26.09.240 and 26.10.160(3) (1994). Only the latter statute is at issue in this case. Section 26.10.160(3) provides: "Any person may petition the court for visitation rights at any time including, but not limited to, custody proceedings. The [**2058]  court may order visitation rights for any person when visitation may serve the best interest of the child whether or not there has been any change of circumstances." At trial, the Troxels requested two weekends of overnight visitation per month and two weeks of visitation each summer. Granville did not oppose visitation altogether, but instead asked the court to order one day of visitation per month with no overnight stay. 87 Wn. App. at 133-134, 940 P.2d at 699. In 1995, the Superior Court issued an oral ruling and entered a visitation decree ordering visitation one weekend per month, one week during the summer, and four hours on both of the petitioning grandparents' birthdays. 137 Wn.2d at 6, 969 P.2d at 23; App. to Pet. for Cert. 76a-78a.

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530 U.S. 57 *; 120 S. Ct. 2054 **; 147 L. Ed. 2d 49 ***; 2000 U.S. LEXIS 3767 ****; 68 U.S.L.W. 4458; 2000 Cal. Daily Op. Service 4345; 2000 Daily Journal DAR 5831; 2000 Colo. J. C.A.R. 3199; 13 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 365



Disposition: 137 Wash. 2d 1, 969 P. 2d 21, affirmed.


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Constitutional Law, Substantive Due Process, Scope, Fundamental Rights, Procedural Due Process, General Overview, Scope of Protection, Family Law, Parental Duties & Rights, Duties, Care & Control of Children, Privacy, Personal Decisions, Guardians, Duties & Rights, Bill of Rights, Visitation Awards, Third Parties, Nonparents, Child Custody, Visitation, Grandparent Visitation, Standards