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Grandparent's Rights Qua Grandparent

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Some US jurisdictions have laws giving visitiation rights to grandparents.

This means that grandparents have a right to visit their grandchildren over the objections of the parents.

Does not seem right to me. Any thoughts?

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Some US jurisdictions have laws giving visitiation rights to grandparents.

This means that grandparents have a right to visit their grandchildren over the objections of the parents.

Does not seem right to me. Any thoughts?

It would be clearly wrong if it were over the objections of the parents and the child. Assuming that your question is focused on what's morally right as opposed to legal issues, it is right for the courts to allow a child to visit a grandparent even if both parents object (with the usual caveat that the court has the responsibility to determine that allowing the child to do so will not cause harm to the child).

Though if one takes the "child as property" viewpoint, then the child has no rights so of course the parents may do as thei please.

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It would be clearly wrong if it were over the objections of the parents and the child. Assuming that your question is focused on what's morally right as opposed to legal issues, it is right for the courts to allow a child to visit a grandparent even if both parents object (with the usual caveat that the court has the responsibility to determine that allowing the child to do so will not cause harm to the child).

But if you extend that to its logical conclusion, a parent has no rights to decide who his child may spend time with if the child disagrees. In fact, as you set up the problem, the courts, and not the parents, are the only ones who may properly set boundaries on who the child may choose to spend time with. I can't imagine how you justify that, especially when you consider that the parent properly bears responsibility for the welfare of the child - how, then, can you say that they must reliquish this kind of control?

Though if one takes the "child as property" viewpoint, then the child has no rights so of course the parents may do as thei please.

This isn't an issue of the child being property - it's an issue of the child lacking the capacity to make rational decisions. That responsibility must be vested in the parents.

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Troxel v Granville decided a few years ago that says grandparents have no special rights over anyone else. The law in Washington used to be that the parent was forced to give visitation rights to grandparents unless there was a darm compelling reason not to. If I remember correctly, the grandparents and the mother had a great deal of animosity and hence wanted them to have no bearing over the child.

So, the court took the middle ground and decided that grandparents technically have the same rights as anyone who petitions a court for visitation. Though the rub is the parent has to show why their would be an adverse effect to the grandchild in order to deny access. Otherwise, visitation is granted almost by default.

Over everything else, I hate the idea of the state being able to force me to expose my children to people or things. So I'd have to err on the side of the parents on this one.

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But if you extend that to its logical conclusion, a parent has no rights to decide who his child may spend time with if the child disagrees.  In fact, as you set up the problem, the courts, and not the parents, are the only ones who may properly set boundaries on who the child may choose to spend time with.

If you're speaking of a child who is irrational then of course the parents have to protect the child from dangerous decisions. But that's a marginal case. The purpose of the court in this case is to recognise the rights that the child has. If the parents' interest -- especially arising from the fact that they are made legally reponsible for the actions of their child -- is truly threatened by allowing grandparents visitation rights, then the court should consider that fact in deciding whether to allow the child the right to act according to his own hierarchy of values. There's a major difference between recognising a child's right to visit grandparents in a relevant context, and automatically, mindlessly granting permission to any grandparent. My support of grandparental visitation is not unconditional.

I can't imagine how you justify that, especially when you consider that the parent properly bears responsibility for the welfare of the child - how, then, can you say that they must reliquish this kind of control?
Because allowing the child the right to visit a grandparent does not automatically cause damage to the parents, e.g. does not mean that the child will go out and become an axe murderer. If there is a fact that indicates that allowing this right would endanger the parents, of course the court must deny the child that right. If on the other hand the facts support it, the courts should grant visitation rights in particular if the grandparents represent a rational value. Consider for example a set of Objectivist grandparents whose children have gone bad and are involved in some self-destructive mystical cult, but whose behavior does not support fully terminating parental rights. Regular visits to such grandparents would obviously be quite beneficial to the child.

This isn't an issue of the child being property - it's an issue of the child lacking the capacity to make rational decisions.  That responsibility must be vested in the parents.

Of course if the child is actually irrational, that is a different matter: but then the courts can make that decision objectively, by considering the facts, and legitimately use that as a basis for denying the child the right to visit with a grandparent.

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Consider for example a set of Objectivist grandparents whose children have gone bad and are involved in some self-destructive mystical cult, but whose behavior does not support fully terminating parental rights. Regular visits to such grandparents would obviously be quite beneficial to the child.

Consider the much more common case of Objectivist parents whose parents are religious and are upset that their grandchildren aren't being given a religious upbringing. Should the grandparents be allowed to take the kids to a synagogue or teach them to say the rosary if the parents object?

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If you're speaking of a child who is irrational then of course the parents have to protect the child from dangerous decisions. But that's a marginal case. The purpose of the court in this case is to recognise the rights that the child has. If the parents' interest -- especially arising from the fact that they are made legally reponsible for the actions of their child -- is truly threatened by allowing grandparents visitation rights, then the court should consider that fact in deciding whether to allow the child the right to act according to his own hierarchy of values. There's a major difference between recognising a child's right to visit grandparents in a relevant context, and automatically, mindlessly granting permission to any grandparent. My support of grandparental visitation is not unconditional.

But what doesn't make sense to me is that you are allowing the government to decide the matter rather than the parents. The only thing the government has the business deciding, however, is issues of force. Suppose, for instance, that my parents are mystics, or Kantian scum. I do NOT want my child exposed to them, but more than that, I do want the government telling me how to raise my child.

Because allowing the child the right to visit a grandparent does not automatically cause damage to the parents, e.g. does not mean that the child will go out and become an axe murderer.
So the government can do whatever it wants with my child so long as he does not go out and become an axe murderer?

If there is a fact that indicates that allowing this right would endanger the parents, of course the court must deny the child that right. If on the other hand the facts support it, the courts should grant visitation rights in particular if the grandparents represent a rational value.

But how can you justify allowing the government to decide what is a rational value and what isn't?

Consider for example a set of Objectivist grandparents whose children have gone bad and are involved in some self-destructive mystical cult, but whose behavior does not support fully terminating parental rights. Regular visits to such grandparents would obviously be quite beneficial to the child.
Consider a heroin junky on the verge of death - coerced treatment would obviously be quite beneficial to such a person.

Of course if the child is actually irrational, that is a different matter: but then the courts can make that decision objectively, by considering the facts, and legitimately use that as a basis for denying the child the right to visit with a grandparent.

My question to you: how do you justify the government making such a judgment rather than the parents of a child?

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But what doesn't make sense to me is that you are allowing the government to decide the matter rather than the parents.  The only thing the government has the business deciding, however, is issues of force.  Suppose, for instance, that my parents are mystics, or Kantian scum.  I do NOT want my child exposed to them, but more than that, I do want the government telling me how to raise my child.

The exact limit on what the government has the right to do is protect the rights of individuals, in this case the child. The government absolutely should not tell you how to raise your child. But it is the nature of government to protect the rights of the individual, and citizens in a civilized society grant that prerogative, of using force to assure rights, to the government.

Something that you should note is that the burden of proof is on the grandparents, to establish that the parental dictates are not reasonable. Nothing in what I've said can possibly be construed as supporting an absolute, context-free claim of grandparents on the lives of granchildren.

So the government can do whatever it wants with my child so long as he does not go out and become an axe murderer?
Nope. Can't imagine how you got that from anything I said. The government has the right to protect the rights of the child.

But how can you justify allowing the government to decide what is a rational value and what isn't?

Well, I think that rational values are determined based on facts, in other words you can't just say "I wanna" and thus demonstrate that X is something that a rational person should want to keep, given their nature. This is a question that has to be answered in terms of fact -- what fact justifies the specific decision? Irrational spite? The desire to destroy another human? Are you asking, how does someone else determine that a person's values are rational?

Consider a heroin junky on the verge of death - coerced treatment would obviously be quite beneficial to such a person.
Really bad analogy. You do recall, don't you, that I said that the child must be willing? We are only talking about the question of when the parent's rights and prerogatives override the rights of the child. If the child says "no", then there is no debate at all. So the better analogy would be consider the heroin junky who wants drug treatment, but their parents refuse to allow it. Or, to be a whole lot less hypothetical, a child with a treatable disease who wants the treatment so that they can survive -- unfortunately, the child was born to Christian Scientist parents who would rather see the child die than allow any unholy medical treatment.

My question to you: how do you justify the government making such a judgment rather than the parents of a child?

When the parents are clearly acting irrationally and are not supporting the life (qua man) of the child. My question to you is, how do you justify the assumption that the parents are the only ones capable of an objective judgment of the interests of the child? What is the special talent that parents have that give them exclusive knowledge of when a minor is being irrational?

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Dave Odden writes:

When the parents are clearly acting irrationally and are not supporting the life (qua man) of the child. My question to you is, how do you justify the assumption that the parents are the only ones capable of an objective judgment of the interests of the child? What is the special talent that parents have that give them exclusive knowledge of when a minor is being irrational?

Irrelevant. The fact that parents are responsible for their children means that they have certain rights with respect to their children, including the right to raise them in any way they see fit so long as they do not abuse the child. Until the time when the child says, "I no longer want your support," he has a legal obligation to live by his parents' rules. The government has no right to impose its set of values, even if those values are rational, on the parents.

Your assumption seems to be that a child has the right to make decisions and take actions counter to his parents' wishes, so long as his parents cannot prove those actions are objectively self-destructive. That's a reasonable view, but wrong I think. The reason children need parents is precisely because they are not able to act in a fully rational sense. They literally don't know what is to their interest. They can't.

Now, when you talk about teenagers, that is - at the same time - both an easier and more difficult problem. It's more difficult, because they are in a gray area between childhood and adulthood. It's easier because, if they want to make their own decisions, they have a simple recourse: emancipation.

At the risk of repeating myself, I would say the following: The responsibilities undertaken by a parent with respect to a child give them a right to determine how to raise that child, so long as they are not abusing the child. Until a child reaches the age of 18 (or whatever the law defines as the age of adulthood), he must therefore either obey his parents wishes, disobey them and accept the consequences, or file for emancipation. To grant any authority to the state to determine intellectual or moral matters beyond that which is establishable perceptually is to undermine the basic principle of a free society.

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I would draw a distinction between two cases:

1) The grandparents have an ongoing relationship with the child for a long time, and then, abruptly, that relationship is cut off. A common case is a divorce, mom gets custody, and cuts of grandparents out of anger against the husband (eg, hurt him through his parents), rather than rational concern for the child. I think its this type of case is driving a lot of court cases. And, in terms of its amount, is a _new_ issue: 50 years ago there was much less divorce, and much less reason for this issue to come up.

2) The parent cut the grandparents off from day one, especially when, for example, the parent had been estranged from the grandparents for years. The child has never seen the grandparents, yet they want visitation rights.

I actually believe the courts should not be involved in either case, but in the first their is at least an issue of plausibility and genuine concern for the child. The second is just plain fascism. Does anyone know of instances where the grandparents have gotten visitation in the second case?

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