'One Parent' Doctrine Struck Down By Michigan Supreme Court

Jun 3, 2014

Michigan Supreme Court strikes down "one parent" doctrine

A Jackson County man will get a trial on whether he gets to keep his kids after a ruling by  the Michigan Supreme Court.

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The state Supreme Court struck down a policy that allows authorities to limit or terminate both parents' rights to their children when one of them runs into trouble with the law. In this case, the mother lost her parental rights when the couple's newborn daughter tested positive for drugs.

Authorities used the so-called "one-parent doctrine" to also deny father Lance Laird the right to see his children. The rule says once the legal system gets involved in a child abuse or neglect case, courts can order both parents to stay away when a child's welfare is at stake.

A 5-2 majority on the state Supreme Court says that's a violation of due process rights, and no parents can be denied access to their kids without their own, individual fitness proceedings.

"…We affirm that an old constitutional right-a parent's right to control the care, custody, and control of his or her children-applies to everyone, which is the very nature of constitutional rights," says the opinion by Justice Bridget Mary McCormack, a Democrat. "Because the one-parent doctrine allows the court to deprive a parent of this fundamental right without any finding that he or she is unfit, it is an unconstitutional violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The opinion says this will likely force more costs and obligations on the state, but stated "…constitutional rights do not always come cheap."