LegalSpeak: Troxel v. Granville (2000)

Child Custody Read more from
Chapter Family Law

The Washington nonparental visitation statute is breathtakingly broad. According to the statute’s text, “[a]ny person may petition the court for visitation rights at any time,” and the court may grant such visitation rights whenever “visitation may serve the best interest of the child.” §26.10.160(3) (emphases added). That language effectively permits any third party seeking visitation to subject any decision by a parent concerning visitation of the parent’s children to state-court review. Once the visitation petition has been filed in court and the matter is placed before a judge, a parent’s decision that visitation would not be in the child’s best interest is accorded no deference. Section 26.10.160(3) contains no requirement that a court accord the parent’s decision any presumption of validity or any weight whatsoever. Instead, the Washington statute places the best-interest determination solely in the hands of the judge. Should the judge disagree with the parent’s estimation of the child’s best interests, the judge’s view necessarily prevails. Thus, in practical effect, in the State of Washington a court can disregard and overturn any decision by a fit custodial parent concerning visitation whenever a third party affected by the decision files a visitation petition, based solely on the judge’s determination of the child’s best interests.


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