High court rules on child visitation
Having grandparents' rights trump parents' is unconstitutional
A law that gives grandparents visitation rights to their grandchildren even if the parents object is unconstitutional, the Hawaii Supreme Court has ruled.
Calling it a victory for parents, the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii is hailing the appellate court's Dec. 13 decision that found that the grandparents visitation law unnecessarily interferes with a parent's fundamental right to raise his or her children.
"The court correctly affirmed that parents' rights are paramount," said Earle Partington, ACLU cooperating attorney. "If a parent is fit to rear his or her child, decisions about that fundamental relationship cannot be overridden by the court simply because an outside party determines that it may be in the child's best interests."
The high court stopped short of rewriting the law and instead said it was up to the Legislature to change the statute.
The case began in September 2003 when a child's maternal grandparents filed a Family Court petition seeking visitation rights to their 6-year-old grandchild. Under the current law, even if the parents objected, grandparents were permitted reasonable visitation as long as the court found that it was in the child's best interest.
Family Court dismissed the grandparents' petition in a Feb. 27, 2004, order.
ACLU Legal Director Lois Perrin said the decision is also a victory for single parents, lesbian and gay parents and low-income parents -- who can now raise their children without interference from the courts and distant family members.
The grandparents who filed suit and their attorney could not be reached for comment.