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December 8, 2008

Senate Bill 74: An Act Regarding Grandparent Visitation

Authors:
Senators Greenleaf, Tartaglione, Boscola, Stout, Rafferty, Wonderling, Wozniak, Rhoades, Orie, O’Pake, and Browne

Summary:
This bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 12, 2007. There has been no activity on the bill since that time. For some reason our tracking service did not pick it up. It was recently brought to our attention by someone in Pennsylvania.

This bill would revise the child visitation and custody law of Pennsylvania. Under current law there is no provision for grandparent visitation of a child in an intact family without the parents’ consent unless the child has previously resided with the grandparents for at least 12 months. In the case and in cases where the parents are divorced or one parent is deceased, the grandparents of the child may be granted visitation if it’s in the best interest of the child and the visitation would not interfere with the parent-child relationship. Current law permits a grandparent to obtain custody of a child if it is in the child’s best interest and the grandparent (1) has genuine care and concern for the child, (2) has a relationship with the child that began with the consent of the parent or by court order, and (3) has for 12 months assumed the role of the child’s parent or has assumed responsibility for a child who has been determined by the court to be a dependent child or abused or neglected.

This bill does provides that in an action for visitation or custody of a child in an intact family, the grandparent must prove the following: (1) the relationship with the child began either with the consent of the parent or by court order; (2) the grandparent is willing to assume responsibility for the child; and (3) either the child has been determined by the juvenile court to be a dependent child, the child is a victim of parental abuse or neglect, or the child has previously resided with the grandparent for at least 12 consecutive months. This standard would essentially change current law to permit grandparent custody or visitation when married parents are unfit.

The bill provides that the grandparent may also petition for visitation or custody if the parent is deceased, the parents have been separated for six months, or the child has resided with the grandparent for at least 12 months. Under the proposed law, this standard of review would be the same as it is now.

A single, fit parent who opposes grandparent visitation should not be subject to forced visitation simply because the court finds that the visitation would be in the best interest of the child and would not interfere with the parent-child relationship. Unfortunately, this bill would not fix this problem.

This bill should be amended to establish a higher standard for grandparent visitation in instances when a parent is deceased or the parents are divorced. It is HSLDA’s position that involuntary visitation by grandparents is only justified when the custodial parent is unfit.

Status:

2/12/2007 Introduced and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee
11/30/2008 Legislation died when the Senate adjourned

HSLDA’s Position:
This bill should be amended for the reasons stated above.

Action Requested:
None at this time.

 Other Resources

Bill Text   (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Bill History