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Indiana

May 15, 2009

House Bill 1290: Allows Court to Order Grandparent Visitation

Author:
Representatives Dennie Oxley, Russ Stilwell

Summary:
During the 2009 session there were two bills in the Indiana legislature that would have permitted grandparents to petition the court for visitation rights against the wishes of parents. House Bill 1290 and Senate Bill 26 would have permitted a grandparent to ask the court to order visitation even when a family is intact and the parents believe it to be in the best interest of their children to limit their contact with their grandparents.

These two bills would have changed the current law which places restrictions on grandparent visitation and would have permitted a grandparent to petition the court to order visitation even when the parents believed 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.

These bills were strongly opposed as an attack on parental rights. Neither bill passed out of committee.

Status:

1/21/2009Prefiled and referred to Courts and Criminal Code

House Bill 1290 is dead.

HSLDA’s Position:
HSLDA opposed H.B. 1290.

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, H.B. 1290 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