Parents have a liberty interest in their fundamental right to autonomy in raising their children. Courts must therefore give weight to a parent’s decision to deny visitation to the child’s grandparents. A court can only order Washington grandparent visitation over the objection of a fit parent if the grandparent shows that denying visitation would be harmful to the child. A grandmother and stepgrandfather recently challenged a court’s denial of their petition for visitation.
In July 2015, the mother moved with the children to Washington where her mother and stepfather lived from Las Vegas. The mother moved with the children to Oregon the following November. The father filed for divorce in June 2016. The mother brought the children back to Washington to stay with her mother and stepfather. She died of suicide that October.
The father did not immediately take the children. According to the appeals court’s opinion, he said he needed help taking care of things after the mother’s death. He also said the children were in school in Walla Walla, and he was focused on getting transferred to the Air Force Base in Spokane.