Michigan: “One Parent” Doctrine Unconstitutional

June 18, 2014 Abuse and Neglect Attorney

State Can’t Take Jurisdiction if Only One Parent Deemed Unfit

The Michigan Supreme Court recently ruled that the “one parent” doctrine, which has been on the books for more than 70 years, is in fact unconstitutional, and infringes on the due process rights of parents.

In a 5 to 2 ruling released on June 2, 2014 in the court handed down its decision in In Re Sanders.  According to the justices who were in favor of overturning the ruling, “The state must balance its legitimate and crucial interest in protecting children with the fundamental rights of parents.”

However, the two justices who voted to keep the one parent doctrine, Judge Stephen Markman and Judge David Viviano, disagreed that both parents should be constitutionally entitled to a jury trial to determine their fitness as a parent. These judges stated that “children in the greatest need of expedited public protection will receive it considerably less quickly because both parents are for the first time constitutionally entitled to jury trials.”

This ruling occurred as a result of a recent case involving Lance Laird, who was arrested for drug trafficking in 2013. Laird had contested a court’s ruling that said his sons were to be removed from his custody after he tested positive for cocaine. The same court also denied his requests for a trial that would allow a jury to determine if he was a fit parent.

The mother of his sons, Tammy Sanders, had admitted to doing drugs with Laird and also spending the night at his home, despite a court order that forbid her to have any unsupervised contact with her children. One of the boys had previously been removed from Sanders’ custody by Children’s Protective Services (CPS), just days after he was born, because the baby tested positive for cocaine at birth. Laird, who already had custody of his other son, was granted custody of the baby.

The high court rejected the Department of Human Services argument that Laird had no right to a trial to determine his fitness, as a result of his incarceration. The justices said that an imprisoned parent should be legally allowed to exercise their constitutional rights to direct the care of their children.

In addition, the justices voting in the majority wrote that “in some cases this process may impose a greater burden on the state, however, constitutional rights do not always come at a cheap price.”

Parents have a Constitutional right to parent their own children and the attorneys of Kronzek and Cronkright, PLLC applaud this decision by the Michigan Supreme Court.