Tuesday, June 06, 2000

Excerpts of Supreme Court decision

        Find the complete text on the Web at supct.law.cornell.edu/supct (Click on "this month's decisions"> or supremecourtus.gov

        Here are excerpts:

        Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's majority opinion:

        “The demographic changes of the past century make it difficult to speak of an average American family. The composition of families varies greatly from household to household. ...

        “The nationwide enactment of nonparental visitation statutes is assuredly due, in some part, to the states' recognition of these changing realities of the American family. Because grandparents and other relatives undertake duties of a parental nature in many households, states have sought to ensure the welfare of the children ... by protecting the relationships those children form with such third parties. ...

        “The extension of statutory rights in this area to persons other than a child's parents, however, comes with an obvious cost. For example, a state's recognition of an independent third-party interest in a child can place a substantial burden on the traditional parent-child relationship.

        “... In practical effect, in the state of Washington a court can disregard and overturn any decision by a fit custodial parent concerning visitation ...         Justice Anthony M. Kennedy's dissenting opinion:

        “My principal concern is that the (state court) holding seems to proceed from the assumption that the parent or parents who resist visitation have always been the child's primary caregivers and that the third parties who seek visitation have no legitimate and established relationship with the child. That idea, in turn, appears influenced by the concept that the conventional nuclear family ought to establish the visitation standard for every domestic relations case.

        “As we all know, this is simply not the structure or prevailing condition in many households. For many boys and girls a traditional family ... is simply not the reality of their childhood. This may be so whether their childhood has been marked by tragedy or filled with considerable happiness and fulfillment.”


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- Excerpts of Supreme Court decision
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