Rideout v. Riendeau presented a case in which two grandparents, Rose and Chesley Rideout, sought visitation of their three grandchildren. Though the Rideouts had served as the childrens' “primary caregivers and custodians” for significant periods of time, the childrens' parents, Heaven-Marie Riendeau, who was the Rideouts' daughter, and Jeffrey Riendeau, ended all contact between the children and the Rideouts due to a strained relationship between the Rideouts and the Riendeaus. The Rideouts filed a complaint pursuant to Maine's Grandparents Visitation Act (the Act), which allows grandparents to bring a petition for visitation when there is a “sufficient existing relationship between the grandparent and the child” or when, in the absence of an existing relationship, a “sufficient effort to establish one has been made.” The Riendeaus filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that the Act unconstitutionally infringed upon their parental rights. The District Court (West Bath, Field, J.) found that, if the Act were constitutional, under the statute's criteria the Rideouts would be entitled to visitation; however, the court determined that the Act violated the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Accordingly, the District Court granted the Riendeau's motion to dismiss. The Rideouts appealed to the Superior Court (Sagadahoc County, Humphrey, J.), which affirmed the District Court. A divided Maine Supreme Judicial Court, sitting as the Law Court, reversed, holding the Act constitutional as applied, finding the Act to be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest in preserving the children's relationship with the grandparents who had acted as their primary caregivers. Two justices concurred, arguing that the court should find the Act constitutional on its face, and refrain from placing any limits on the application of the statute. One justice dissented, arguing that the majority's finding of a compelling state interest was not supported by the language of the statute, and that the statute impermissibly allowed parents to be drawn into litigation before the grandparents established standing. As such, the dissent argued, the statute was not narrowly tailored to advance a compelling state interest. This Note examines the Rideout decision in light of the United States Supreme Court's prior treatment of grandparent visitation in Troxel v. Granville, which held a Washington grandparent visitation statute broader than that addressed in Rideout to be unconstitutional while leaving open the possibility that states could provide a means for grandparents to seek visitation of grandchildren against the wishes of the parents.
Theodore A. Small,
Rideout v. Riendeau: Grandparent Visitation in Maine After Troxel,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol54/iss2/8