House Bill 1244 and Senate Bill 629: Grandparent Visitation

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Last Updated: December 18, 2013
House Bill 1244 and Senate Bill 629: Grandparent Visitation
House Senate
Sponsors:
Representatives Ing, Awana, Ito, Mizuno, Rhoads, and Souki
Sponsors:
Senators Keith-Agaran, Chun Oakland, Espero, Tokuda, and Wakai
Summary:

House Bill 1244 changes Hawaii’s grandparent visitation statute by adding additional factors for courts to consider.

HB 1244 represents a paradigm shift in Hawaii’s grandparent visitation policy. Under the current statute, “Reasonable visitation rights” are deemed, automatically, to be “in the best interests of the child.” HB 1244 changes the statute to allow grandparents to seek visitation rights only when the denial of visitation “would cause significant demonstrable harm to the child.” The bill also spells out factors for courts to consider when determining whether “significant demonstrable harm to the child” is likely, including the child’s previous relationship with the grandparents, whether either the parents or a court had previously permitted visitation, and whether the grandparents have granted housing, financial, or other support to the child for an extended period of time.

HB 1244 also creates “a rebuttable presumption that the parent’s decision regarding visitation is in the best interests of the child. The presumption may be rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence that denial of reasonable visitation rights would cause significant harm to the child.”

Summary:

Senate Bill 629 changes Hawaii’s grandparent visitation statute by adding additional factors for courts to consider.

SB 629 represents a paradigm shift in Hawaii’s grandparent visitation policy. Under the current statute, “Reasonable visitation rights” are deemed, automatically, to be “in the best interests of the child.” SB 629 changes the statute to allow grandparents to seek visitation rights only when the denial of visitation “would cause significant demonstrable harm to the child.”

The bill also spells out factors for courts to consider when determining whether “significant demonstrable harm to the child” is likely, including the child’s previous relationship with the grandparents, whether either the parents or a court had previously permitted visitation, and whether the grandparents have granted housing, financial, or other support to the child for an extended period of time.

Status:

01/18/2013     House     Introduced
01/22/2013     House     Referred to Human Services and Judiciary Committees
02/12/2013     House     Human Services Committee recommended that the measure be passed unamended
02/15/2013     House     Passed Second Reading and referred to the Judiciary Committee
12/18/2013     House     Carried over to the 2014 Regular Session

Status:

01/18/2013     Senate     Introduced
01/22/2013     Senate     Referred to Judiciary and Labor Committee
12/18/2013     Senate     Carried over to the 2014 Regular Session

HSLDA's Position:
Support.

House Bill 1244 is a positive development in Hawaii’s approach to grandparent visitation. In Troxel v. Granville, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the assertion that grandparent visitation should be automatically favored, particularly when parents are opposed. SB 629 moves away from this pre-Troxel philosophy, by requiring proof that a lack of visitation would result in “significant demonstrable harm” to the child.

In Doe v. Doe, 116 Haw. 323, 336 (2007), the Hawaii Supreme Court struck down Hawaii’s grandparent visitation statute as unconstitutional. The court concluded (based on Troxel) that the U.S. Constitution requires proof that a “child will suffer significant harm,” before a court can override a parent’s decision regarding grandparent visitation.

HB 1244 brings Hawaii’s grandparent visitation statute with both Doe and the U.S. Constitution. Family courts will now be required to use the “significant harm” standard, instead of the “best interests of the child” test, when parents and grandparents disagree on whether visitation is appropriate.

In addition, HB 1244 explicitly recognizes (the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently done) that “the law’s concept of the family rests on a presumption that parents possess what a child lacks in maturity, experience, and capacity for judgment required for making life’s difficult decisions.” Parham v. J.R., 442 U.S. 584, 602 (1979). Parents, and not the state, should be presumed to make the best decisions for children, unless the child is at risk of significant harm.

HSLDA's Position:
Support.

Senate Bill 629 is a positive development in Hawaii’s approach to grandparent visitation. In Troxel v. Granville, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the assertion that grandparent visitation should be automatically favored, particularly when parents are opposed. SB 629 moves away from this pre-Troxel philosophy, by requiring proof that a lack of visitation would result in “significant demonstrable harm” to the child.

In Doe v. Doe, 116 Haw. 323, 336 (2007), the Hawaii Supreme Court struck down Hawaii’s grandparent visitation statute as unconstitutional. The court concluded (based on Troxel) that the U.S. Constitution requires proof that a “child will suffer significant harm,” before a court can override a parent’s decision regarding grandparent visitation.

HB 1244 brings Hawaii’s grandparent visitation statute with both Doe and the U.S. Constitution. Family courts will now be required to use the “significant harm” standard, instead of the “best interests of the child” test, when parents and grandparents disagree on whether visitation is appropriate.

In addition, HB 1244 explicitly recognizes (the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently done) that “the law’s concept of the family rests on a presumption that parents possess what a child lacks in maturity, experience, and capacity for judgment required for making life’s difficult decisions.” Parham v. J.R., 442 U.S. 584, 602 (1979). Parents, and not the state, should be presumed to make the best decisions for children, unless the child is at risk of significant harm.

Action Requested:
None at this time
Action Requested:
None at this time

 Other Resources

House Bill Text

House Bill History

 Other Resources

Senate Bill Text

Senate Bill History