The fundamental right to parent

Is the right to parent a fundamental right?  The answer is yes!

The 14th Amendment’s due process clause of the U.S. Constitution protects “life, liberty or property”.  Fundamental rights are rights so important that the U.S. Constitution provides for heightened protection against government interference.  Without this heightened protection against government interference, States could could infringe on “life, liberty or property”.


Here are some common examples of fundamental rights:

  • freedom of speech;
  • freedom of religion
  • freedom to travel;
  • freedom to vote;
  • freedom to marry;
  • freedom to procreate;
  • freedom to refuse medical treatment;
  • freedom to purchase and use birth control;
  • freedom of association;

What about the right to parent?  The right to parent is also a fundamental right, having the same heightened protection against government interference as other fundamental rights.

The fundamental right to parent is supported by a number of U.S. Supreme Court cases including:

  • Meyer v. Nebraska,262 U. S. 390262 U. S. 399 (1923) which held that the rights to conceive and to raise one’s children is deemed “essential”.
  • Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U. S. 158321 U. S. 166 (1944):  “It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder.”
  • Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U. S. 254397 U. S. 263 (1970) which held that the right to parent in the companionship, care, custody, and management of his or her children warrants deference and, absent a powerful countervailing interest, protection.
  • Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000):  “[t]he liberty interest at issue in this case – the interest of parents in the care, custody and control of their children – is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.”

So what does it mean that the right to parent is a fundamental right?  Simply put, the heightened protection against government interference means a State cannot interfere with the fundamental right to parent unless there is a compelling governmental interest.  This has shaped various aspects of Michigan divorce and custody cases.

For example, it is very difficult for grandparents to have parenting time if a biological parent objects and why parents can home school their children.  Even if the State wants to pass a law otherwise, the fundamental right to parent limits the States power to pass the law.

About Findling Lawdivorce and christmas

I have been exclusively practicing divorce and family law in Michigan for over two decades.  The attorneys at Findling Law all share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their lives, without compromising principles.  We specialize in high socio-economic, high-profile and high-conflict cases, while also working with clients of all backgrounds. We recognize that the most important aspect of the practice of law is the application of the law to your specific circumstances.

That is why we provide more free information on divorce and family law than any other Michigan law firm. We want to help you manage your situation. Allow our exceptional legal team to help you navigate the change in your life, without compromising principles.

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By:  Daniel Findling

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