Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Grandparents' Rights and other family law mythology 

I posted about grandparents' rights several years ago. Eugene Volokh has a post about a new legal case invoking the grandparents' rights meme. I thought after the Supreme Court ruled that the matter would be closed. I admit that I thought wrong.

Remember that we are talking about a legally fit parent. We are not alleging an abusive or neglectful parent. We are only talking about a fit parent. In this case (as in most others presented in the grandparents' rights cases), the parent has been declared legally fit. They are aware of their decisions and the consequences of those decisions on the child. What is at issue is the parent has decided for whatever reason that the grandparent cannot visit the child. Why there is even a case to be made here is beyond me.

It does not matter why a parent decides to exclude a grandparent from a child's life. It only matters that the parent decides . The parent makes decisions for a child. There is no such animal as grandparents' rights. That is nonsense. A parent has the right to exclude from a child's life ANYONE to include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, distant relatives, friends, classmates, the mailman, that random guy over there, you, me, and Jesus Christ. We may not like it, but that is the decision that is a parent's alone to make.

We may not like decisions that other parents make for the lives of thier children, but our dislike in no way diminishes the parents' right to make the decision. THEY ARE FIT PARENTS. It is their decision. To meddle with this is to invite chaos.

Legally fit parents get to decide everything from the brand of Orange Juice at breakfast to whether or not their child can have a blood transfusion. From the small to the grave in consequence, it is a parents' responsibility. Does a grandparent have a legal standing if a parent decides to send their child to public school even though the parent has adequate funds to pay for private school? Does the grandparent have a legal standing if a parent decides to home school a child? Does a grandparent have a legal standing if a parent decides to send a child to a parochial school? When does a grandparent get to make a decision in the life of a grandchild? Only when a legally fit parent approves.

A fortune cookie example - we play this game when opening and reading fortune cookies. We decide on a tag line ("in the bed" or "while driving a Mustang") that must be read after your fortune. "You will have a great adventure" becomes "You will have a great adventure in the bed". Any statement about grandparents' rights has to end with the tag line "as long as a legally fit parent approves". "Grandparents should be allowed to see their grandchildren at Christmas" becomes "Grandparents should be allowed to see their grandchildren at Christmas as long as a legally fit parent approves".

Hypothetical - A legally fit parent decides they want to move with their children from Miami to Anchorage, Alaska. Not for any reason other than they decided they wanted to move. Should a court even begin to consider a motion by the grandparents to block the parents from moving? Why?



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