Painter v. Bannister
258 Iowa 1390, 140 N.W. 152 (1966)
Harold was married and had two
children. His wife and one child were killed in a car accident. Harold
asked his wife's parents (Dwight and Margaret) to care for the surviving
child (Mark) while he got his life back together.
Dwight and Margaret took Mark
to their farm where they raised him for a year.
Dwight and Margaret lived a
very different lifestyle in rural Iowa than Harold did. They felt that
they provided a far more stable home life than Harold could.
Dwight and Margaret never
approved of their daughter's marriage to Harold in the first place.
Harold got back on his feet
and remarried. He asked Dwight and Margaret to return Mark, but they
refused. He sued for custody.
The Trial Court awarded
custody to Harold. Dwight and Margaret appealed.
Harold argued that he had a fundamental
right to raise his own child.
Because of that, there must be clear and convincing evidence that the natural parents are unfit before the
court moves to a best interests test.
The Iowa Supreme Court
reversed and gave custody to Dwight and Margaret.
The Iowa Supreme Court found
that Mark, Dwight and Margaret were all generally fit to be parents, even
though they had very different lifestyles.
The Court applied a best
interests test and found that Dwight
and Margaret's "stable, dependable, conventional, middleclass,
Midwest background" provided a more solid background than Mark's
"Bohemian approach to finances and life in general."
Mark was a freelance writer
and photographer. And, since this was the 1960s, it sounds like was
most likely a 'long-haired hippy'.
The Court also noted that
he was either "an atheist or a Buddhist, and 'politically
While the Court found that
Mark's home would be "unconventional, arty, Bohemian, and probably
intellectually stimulating," they found that "security and
stability in the home are more important than intellectual stimulation in
the proper development of a child."
The Court never addressed
Harold's argument that there must be clear and convincing evidence to take a child away from a parent.
This was a bad decision by the
Iowa Court! Courts cannot go
straight to a best interests
test to determine custody when it is a parent vs. a non-parent, because
there is a parental presumption
that a parent has a fundamental right to raise their own child. It is only when the parental
presumption is rebutted with clear
and convincing evidence can the courts
consider best interests.
When it is parent vs.
parent, you can go straight to a best
Btw, a few years later, Mark
expressed a desire to live with his father, and the grandparents did not
oppose the move.