Parental Rights


In addition to marital rights, the Court has recognized several other family-related rights, including the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit. In Santosky v. Kramer (1982), the Court noted that “freedom of personal choice in matters of family life is a fundamental liberty interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.” Further, the Court recognized a “fundamental liberty interest of natural parents in the care, custody, and management of their child.”

Custody of one’s children is considered to be a fundamental right, though the Court in several cases has refused to protect the rights of unmarried fathers. Parents also have a fundamental right to keep their family together, as well as to control the upbringing of their children. This includes the rights of parents to raise their children without interference from others, including grandparents. In Troxel v. Granville (2000), the Court in a plurality opinion struck down a Washington statute that allowed any person to petition a court for visitation rights if visitation was in the best interests of the child. Under this case, even though a state statute may still allow courts to grant visitation right to grandparents (and perhaps others), such a law may not do so in a manner than infringes upon a parent’s right to make decisions regarding the “care, custody, and control” of his or her children.