Legal Precedents In Support Of The Parent-Child Relationship
Those of you who have been involved in the noncustodial parents' rights movement have often heard talk of legal precedents supporting every parent's and child's Civil Right to enjoy a parent-child relationship.
Since it has been several years since we published excerpts of these cases, for the benefit of newcomers, we repeat some of them here. First, some federal precedents, listed chronologically:
"The parent-child relationship is a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment." Bell v. City of Milwaukee, 746 f 2d 1205, 1242-45; US Ct App 7th Cir WI, (1985).
"The rights of parents to the care, custody and nurture of their children is of such character that it cannot be denied without violating those fundamental principles of liberty and justice which lie at the base of all our civil and political institutions, and such right is a fundamental right protected by this amendment (First) and Amendments 5, 9, and 14." Doe v. Irwin, 441 F Supp 1247; U.S. D.C. of Michigan, (1985).
"The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit (California) held that the parent-child relationship is a constitutionally protected liberty interest. (See; Declaration of Independence --life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution -- No state can deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law nor deny any person the equal protection of the laws.)" Kelson v. Springfield, 767 F 2d 651; US Ct App 9th Cir, (1985).
"A parent's right to the preservation of his relationship with his child derives from the fact that the parent's achievement of a rich and rewarding life is likely to depend significantly on his ability to participate in the rearing of his children. A child's corresponding right to protection from interference in the relationship derives from the psychic importance to him of being raised by a loving, responsible, reliable adult." Franz v. U.S., 707 F 2d 582, 595-599; US Ct App (1983).
"The liberty interest of the family encompasses an interest in retaining custody of one's children and, thus, a state may not interfere with a parent's custodial rights absent due process protections." Langton v. Maloney, 527 F Supp 538, D.C. Conn. (1981).
"The U.S. Supreme Court implied that "a (once) married father who is separated or divorced from a mother and is no longer living with his child" could not constitutionally be treated differently from a currently married father living with his child." Quilloin v. Walcott, 98 S Ct 549; 434 US 246, 255-56, (1978).
"The Court stressed, "the parent-child relationship is an important interest that undeniably warrants deference and, absent a powerful countervailing interest, protection." A parent's interest in the companionship, care, custody and management of his or her children rises to a constitutionally secured right, given the centrality of family life as the focus for personal meaning and responsibility." Stanley v. Illinois, 405 US 645, 651; 92 S Ct 1208, (1972).
"The Constitution also protects "the individual interest in avoiding disclosure of personal matters." Federal Courts (and State Courts), under Griswold can protect, under the "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" phrase of the Declaration of Independence, the right of a man to enjoy the mutual care, company, love and affection of his children, and this cannot be taken away from him without due process of law. There is a family right to privacy which the state cannot invade or it becomes actionable for civil rights damages." Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 US 479, (1965).
"The United States Supreme Court noted that a parent's right to "the companionship, care, custody and management of his or her children" is an interest "far more precious" than any property right." May v. Anderson, 345 US 528, 533; 73 S Ct 840, 843, (1952).
"Parent's rights have been recognized as being "essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free man." Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 or 426 US 390 ; 43 S Ct 625, (1923).
Next, just a few of the many state precedents, also listed chronologically:
"A parent's right to care and companionship of his or her children are so fundamental, as to be guaranteed protection under the First, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution." In re: J.S. and C., 324 A 2d 90; supra 129 NJ Super, at 489.
"A parent's right to the custody of his or her children is an element of "liberty" guaranteed by the 5th Amendment and the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution." Matter of Gentry, 369 NW 2d 889, MI App Div (1983).
"The right of a parent not to be deprived of parental rights without a showing of fitness, abandonment or substantial neglect is so fundamental and basic as to rank among the rights contained in this Amendment (Ninth) and Utah's Constitution, Article 1, section 1." In re U.P., 648 P 2d 1364; Utah, (1982).
"Parent's interest in custody of her children is a liberty interest which has received considerable constitutional protection; a parent who is deprived of custody of his or her child, even though temporarily, suffers thereby grievous loss and such loss deserves extensive due process protection." In the Interest of Cooper, 621 P 2d 437; 5 Kansas App Div 2d 584,(1980).
"Parents have a fundamental constitutionally protected interest in continuity of legal bond with their children." Matter of Delaney, 617 P 2d 886, Oklahoma (1980).
"No bond is more precious and none should be more zealously protected by the law as the bond between parent and child." Carson v. Elrod, 411 F Supp 645, 649; DC E.D. VA (1976).
"Father enjoys the right to associate with his children which is guaranteed by this amendment (First) as incorporated in Amendment 14, or which is embodied in the concept of "liberty" as that word is used in the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment and Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment." Mabra v. Schmidt, 356 F Supp 620; DC, WI (1973).
If you intend to use these or any other precedents in your own case, it is imperative that you read and understand the whole case, and be able to discuss how the principles discussed in that case apply to your circumstances. Don't know how to find it? In most States, law libraries at law schools and at some county courthouses are accessible by the public. Go to your nearest law library and ask the librarian for assistance. Do not expect the librarian to do the work for you, especially at a law school. Using the numbers following the title of the case, the librarian will be able to show you which set of books to look in, and how the numbering system works. You will be on your own from there.