Washington Law Review


Eric B. Martin


Every state in the Union has a statute allowing for court-ordered child visitation by non-parents. Until the summer of 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court had never ruled on the constitutionality of such statutes. When the Court finally tackled Washington's statute in Troxel v. Granville, the Court left the most significant questions unanswered, while casting doubt on the validity of Washington's statute. Prior to Troxel, the Washington Supreme Court had held Washington's nonparental visitation statute facially unconstitutional, finding that the statute violated the Fourteenth Amendment rights of parents. After granting certiorari, the U.S. Supreme Court held Washington's statute unconstitutional as applied and refused to reach the question of facial unconstitutionality. This Comment proposes three changes to Washington's nonparental visitation statute that would ameliorate the objections voiced by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the application of the statute: the Washington Legislature should limit the classes of persons allowed to petition for visitation, codify the common law rebuttable presumption that a parent's decision regarding visitation is in the best interest of the child, and add a purpose section to the nonparental visitation statute. This Comment concludes that with these changes, Washington's nonparental visitation statute would be constitutional and Washington's lower courts would have the guidance needed to constitutionally apply the statute in a manner consistent with precedent.

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