Tommie Granville and Brad Troxel had two daughters together, but their relationship ended in 1991. Brad lived with his parents after the separation until his death in 1993, and during that time, the paternal grandparents regularly saw their grandchildren on weekends.
Following Brad’s death, Tommie told the grandparents she wanted to reduce her daughters’ visitation with them to one visit per month. The grandparents filed a petition for substantially more visitation time under a Washington statute providing that “any person may petition the court for visitation rights at any time” and that the court may grant the petition if it “may serve the best interest of the child.”
A Washington Superior Court failed to recognize Tommie’s fundamental right to direct the upbringing of her children and control who the child sees and when. Rather, the judge decided that more visitation with the grandparents would benefit the children. The Washington Court of Appeals reversed this ruling, and the Washington Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s decision. The grandparents appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Alliance Defending Freedom funded amicus efforts in support of Tommie’s parental rights.
In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court said Washington’s statute was too broad and violated parental rights. Writing for the majority, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said, “The liberty interest at issue in this case -- the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children -- is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court." For this reason, the majority said it is up to fit parents, not government officials, to make decisions regarding the care, custody, and control of their children.