When becoming a parent, one of the last items on your to-do list may be researching and understanding the rights provided to you by the government under the Constitution. However, these rights become a significant question when you are facing a child custody dispute. Therefore, your custody attorney has provided some of the most basic rights each parent is given under the Constitution in relation to family law matters.
Although not explicitly provided for in the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court has interpreted the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to include certain undeniable rights to parents. The right to have children, care, maintain custody, determine their education, upbringing, and control over a child by a parent is considered to be fundamental to the liberty of an individual and is noted as “the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by the Court.” Troxell v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (U.S. 2000); Glucksberg, 521 U.S. at 720, 117 S. Ct. at 2267.
One of the first rights recognized by the Supreme Court relating to parents involves the right for a parent to raise a child as they deem fit without interference from the state. Prohibitions, limitations, or compulsions relating to a child’s education or association have routinely been struck down by the Court. In 1923, the court found that a statute prohibiting people from teaching German to children was unconstitutional as it infringed upon a parent’s choice to raise and teach their child in the manner they choose. Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923). Two years later, the court invalidated a state statute requiring all children to attend public school. The court held this interfered with a parent’s right to educate their child with a private or homeschool curriculum and therefore, violated the constitution. Pierce v. Soc’y of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925). Further, in the case of Troxel v. Granville, the court held that a state may not require a parent to permit visitation between their child and grandparents if the parent does not desire to maintain such contact. Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000). Finally, the court has held that familial association is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment and is a substantive due process right substantially related to an individual’s right to privacy. Therefore, interference with this association is prohibited without substantial justification. Kraft v. Jacka, 872 F.2d 862, 871 (9th Cir. 1989); Shondel v. McDermott, 775 F.2d 859, 865-66 (7th Cir. 1985); Fleisher v. City of Signal Hill, 829 F.2d 1491, 1499 (9th Cir. 1987); Arnold v. Board of Educ., 880 F.2d 305, 312 (11th Cir. 1989)
However, a parent’s fundamental right to raise and maintain custody of their child may be intruded upon by the government if the reason for the interference is necessary to achieve a compelling state interest and is the least restrictive method of doing so. For instance, in Prince v. Massachusetts, the court held that if a parent exposes their child to a serious hazard effecting the child’s well-being, the state may intervene in order to protect the welfare of that child and prosecute the parent. Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158 (1944). Further, when involved in a proceeding regarding their parental fitness, the court has provided that the parent has a right to be represented by legal counsel during these proceedings. Lassiter v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 452 U.S. 18 (1981). Finally, the court found that parental rights may only be terminated upon a showing of clear and convincing evidence that they are unfit to parent the child. Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745 (1982).
Knowing your rights under the law, can be a significant asset to your child custody case. Failure to properly understand or recognize a parent’s right can result in a substantial loss. Therefore, if you are facing a child custody battle, employ the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced child custody attorney.
Speaking to an attorney at our Pensacola office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at (800) 822-5170 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.