Parental Rights to Refuse Sibling-Sibling Visitation

In re D.S. (Ore. Sup. Ct. Feb. 16, 2012) is an interesting — and, as usual, sad — parental rights case. Father had four children living with him and his girlfriend: his daughter, D (age 14), his son, R (age 12, D’s full brother), his girlfriend’s son, G (age 5 or 6), and his and his girlfriend’s daughter, S (age less than 2, D’s half-sister). D’s mother is in prison.

D accused father of physically abusing her, and is now in foster care. The father says “D was lying about the physical abuse and was an ‘out of control’ teenager.” The father is awaiting trial on the physical abuse charges.

D wants to visit with her siblings, and the trial court ordered that the father not interfere with that, at least as to R and G (but apparently not the very young S, though that’s unclear). The father objected, claiming this violates his parental rights with regard to R and G.

The Oregon Supreme Court agreed that the father’s parental rights were in play, and remanded for further development of the facts. Exactly what showing the court would find adequate for allowing a restriction of the father’s rights is not clear. But the court did conclude that the trial court cannot order sibling-sibling visitation as a matter of course, and had to consider the father’s rights to control access to those siblings who are still in his custody.