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June 25, 2008

Senate Bill 48: Broad Expansion of Grandparent Visitation

Author:
Senator John M. Waterman

Summary:
Senate Bill 48 would have changed the current law to permit a grandparent to petition the court to order visitation even when the parents believe it to be in the best interest of their children to limit their contact with their grandparents.

Instead of presuming that parents are in the best position to make decisions in the best interest of their children, this bill would have given courts the authority to declare that these parental decisions are unreasonable and order grandparent visitation contrary to a parent's better judgment.

A similar bill was introduced in the previous session, but with your help it died in committee. The 2008 legislative session closed, and Senate Bill 48 also failed to pass out of committee.

Status:

1/8/2008Authored by Senator Waterman
1/8/2008First reading: Referred to Committee on Judiciary

HSLDA's Position:
HSLDA opposed S.B. 48

Action Requested:
No action required at this time.

Background:

Over the years, HSLDA has represented member families in conflicts with grandparents who did not like homeschooling. These grandparents would try to stop the homeschooling through various means, including turning the family over to child welfare services. Thankfully, most grandparents we come in contact with at HSLDA support homeschooling and in some situations even participate in the teaching.

However, S.B. 48 would give grandparents the right to sue parents for visitation. If this bill becomes law, they could petition the court for visitation rights when both parents are together and not only when there is a pending dissolution, legal separation, or modification of a parenting plan proceeding.

Of course, if a grandparent brings a suit under this act, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child and order family mediation and a psychological evaluation of the child. Under this bill the court only needs to decide whether the parents’ decision to limit contact with the grandparents is “reasonable.”

On the surface these bills appear to protect parents’ rights. However, this bill would require the parent to prove why their decision to deny visitation is reasonable and in the best interest of the child. This places the court in the position of deciding whether the parent was justified in limiting contact with the grandparents.

 Other Resources

Bill Text

Bill History