The state Supreme Court of South Dakota recently ruled that a state law that allows grandparents and others who are not the natural parents of child to gain child custody is constitutional. The child custody law was challenged constitutionally because the law does not require a court to find the parents of the child unfit before awarding custody to another guardian. The ruling of the South Dakota Supreme Court does not affect state law in Texas but is interesting nonetheless.
The ruling of the South Dakota Supreme Court gives the grandparents of a 4-year-old girl another chance to gain custody. The grandparents of the 4-year-old are seeking child custody of their granddaughter because they feel they would be better able to care for child. The parents of the child are no longer together, and the grandparents claim that both parents have problems with substance abuse and mental health. The child custody suit was originally dismissed by a district court judge who found the applicable state law to be unconstitutional because the law allowed the courts to award custody to nonparents without finding the parents of the child to be unfit.
In its ruling the South Dakota Supreme Court explained the child custody law was constitutional because it gave consideration to fit parents and the United States Supreme Court has not required that parents be found unfit before awarding child custody to another party. The court went on to say that state laws allow another party to gain custody if the parents of child are shown to be neglectful, have abandoned their parental duties or other circumstances demonstrate a needed change in custody.
Source: cbsnews.com, "S.D. High Court Backs Grandparent Child Custody," 12/31/10