This Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of one state’s grandparent visitation statute. Many people have never heard of such statutes. Even for family law attorneys, the question of grandparent visitation is often just a blip on a screen filled with the lucrative issues of divorce. Yet the Court’s decision in Troxel v. Granville, No. 99-138, will, in no small measure, dictate the relationship between family life and state regulation for all of us for years to come.

Any discussion of what court-ordered grandparent visitation is must begin with what it is not. Court-ordered grandparent visitation is not a remedy for inadequate parenting. Put aside the specter of drug-addicted, mentally ill, teen-aged mothers. They simply do not figure in this discussion. If a parent is unfit, the state’s child welfare legislation applies, not its grandparent visitation law. By definition, then, a grandparent visitation suit is brought against good parents.

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