The Due Process Clause of the U.S. Const. amend. XIV protects the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.
Washington Rev. Code § 26.10.160(3) permitted any person to petition a state court for child visitation rights at any time, and authorized the court to order visitation rights for any person when visitation might serve the best interest of the child. Pursuant to the statute, petitioners, paternal grandparents, filed a petition to obtain visitation rights with their deceased son's children. After the Washington Superior Court for Skagit County granted the grandparents more visitation time than respondent Granville--the children's mother--desired, Granville appealed. While the appeal was pending, Granville, who had never married the children's father, was married to a father of six, who adopted the two children. The Washington Court of Appeals reversed the visitation order and dismissed the petition for visitation. The Washington Supreme Court, affirming the judgment of the Court of Appeals, expressed the view that the statute infringed on the fundamental right, under the Federal Constitution, of parents to rear their children.
Does § 26.10.160(3), a Washington statute permitting any person to petition a state court for child visitation rights at any time, infringe on the fundamental right of the parents to rear their children?
The Court held that § 26.10.160(3) unconstitutionally infringed on parents' fundamental right to rear their children. Reasoning that the Federal Constitution permitted a state to interfere with this right only to prevent harm or potential harm to the child, the Court found that § 26.10.160(3) did not require a threshold showing of harm and swept too broadly by permitting any person to petition at any time with the only requirement being that the visitation serve the best interest of the child.