Parental Rights in Montana

Resolution Supporting the PRA

We did it! Thanks in part to your support, in 2011, the Montana legislature passed a joint resolution (SJR 9) calling on Congress to adopt a Parental Rights Amendment. Led by Sen. R. Hutton, it passed both houses by a large majority. (Learn more about state resolutions.)

Montana Parental Rights News

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Montana State Law and Parental Rights

At Risk!

Montana does not have a state statute that explicitly defines and protects parental rights as fundamental rights.

Mont. Code Ann. § 40-4-227:

(1) It is the policy of the state of Montana:

(a) to recognize the constitutionally protected rights of parents and the integrity of the family unit;
(b) to recognize a child's constitutionally protected rights, including all fundamental rights unless those rights are specifically precluded by laws that enhance their protection; and
(c) to ensure that the best interests of the child are met in parenting proceedings.

(2) The legislature finds:

(a) that while it is in the best interests of a child to maintain a relationship with a natural parent, a natural parent's inchoate interest in the child requires constitutional protection only when the parent has demonstrated a timely commitment to the responsibilities of parenthood; and
(b) that a parent's constitutionally protected interest in the parental control of a child should yield to the best interests of the child when the parent's conduct is contrary to the child-parent relationship.

Mont. Code Anno., § 40-4-228 (5):

It is not necessary for the court to find a natural parent unfit before awarding a parental interest to a third party under this section.

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Montana Courts and Parental Rights

"Strict Scrutiny" Applied to Parental Rights

However, this precedent is subject to change.

Kulstad v. Maniaci, 220 P.3d 595, 542 (Mont. 2009): The MT Supreme Court upheld strict scrutiny protection to parental rights. "'The liberty interest at issue in this case—the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children—is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.' Troxel. Thus, this statute (§ 40-4-228, MCA) is subject to strict scrutiny review.”