Do grandparents have visitation rights?

Over the last few decades, a growing number of grandparents have been legislated out of existence. In response, grandparents have joined in approving the laws that give grandparents the right to request visitation in the event of a divorce or death of the parents. One by one, these laws were adopted in several ways, until all States had one, including Oklahoma. However, once the laws were established, grandparents who had visitation in a state were found to have to litigate again if their grandchild’s custodian moved to another state.

 

In this particular case, the grandparents, Gary and Jenifer Troxel, asked the court to allow them to visit the children of their deceased son who had committed suicide. No claim was made that the mother was an unfit father. The mother of the children was willing to allow some visitation rights to grandparents, but not the schedule of 2 weekends per month requested. The mother’s attorney argued that in the absence of evidence that the children were being harmed; the father must have absolute veto power as to who should be able to visit his children. The grandparents’ attorney argued that the state has the power to pass the law.

Judge Sandra Day O’Connor represented the majority by saying that “as long as a parent adequately cares for their children (i.e., fit), there is usually no reason for the state to incorporate into the private sphere of the family to further question the ability of That father to make the best decisions regarding the parenting of that Father’s children.  ”

In his opinion, Judge Arthur M. Kennedy stated that the Tribunal should have confronted, rather than avoided, the question of the constitutionality of laws regarding visitation rights for the benefit of children, how can grandparents get visitation rights.

Oklahoma law has followed the same analysis followed in the Troxel case.