In re Sanders (Opinion - Leave Granted)Annotate this Case
The issue this case presented to the Supreme Court was the constitutionality of Michigan’s one-parent doctrine. The one-parent doctrine essentially imposes joint and several liability on both parents, potentially divesting either of custody, on the basis of the unfitness of one. "Merely describing the doctrine foreshadows its constitutional weakness." Upon petition by the Department of Human Services (DHS), the trial court adjudicated respondent-mother, Tammy Sanders, as unfit but dismissed the allegations of abuse and neglect against respondent-appellant-father, Lance Laird. Laird moved for his children to be placed with him. Although Laird was never adjudicated as unfit, the trial court denied Laird’s motion, limited his contact with his children, and ordered him to comply with a service plan. The trial court relied on the one-parent doctrine and the Court of Appeals’ decision in "In re CR," (646 NW2d 506 (2002)), from which that doctrine derives. Laird argued that the one-parent doctrine violated his fundamental right to direct the care, custody, and control of his children because it permits the court to enter dispositional orders affecting that right without first determining that he was an unfit parent. The Supreme Court agreed: because application of the one-parent doctrine impermissibly infringed the fundamental rights of unadjudicated parents without providing adequate process, the Court held that it was unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.