House Bill 1934: Third-Party Visitation Bill

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Last Updated: January 22, 2014
House Bill 1934: Third-Party Visitation Bill
Sponsors:
Representative Jamie Pedersen (D-43), with 56 cosponsors.
Summary:

This bill will cause intact families, including perfectly fit parents, to face potential court challenges to their parenting decisions whenever they limit or restrict their child’s visitation to any person. While the bill provides some minimal protections of parents’ decision making, the parent will still have to defend any petition for visitation right, no matter how outrageous.

The other third-party visitation bill, House Bill 1506, was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on February 6 and had been scheduled for a vote on February 12. However, your calls delayed the vote on that bill. While House Bill 1934 is identical to House Bill 1506, the new bill has 57 sponsors compared with 16 sponsors of the first bill. We still believe this bill would be bad for Washington families and can be stopped. Please contact all of the legislators below and oppose this bill.

HSLDA's Position:
Oppose.
Action Requested:

1) Please call and email the House Judiciary Committee members listed below and give them this message in your own words:

“Please oppose House Bill 1934. This bill interferes with parents’ fundamental right to direct the care, custody, and control of their children. No parents should have their decision on who visits their child challenged in court. Allowing any person who has formed a relationship with the child and family to be able to petition the court for visitation rights is outrageous.”

“Additionally, this bill would allow courts to determine visitation even in situations where the family is still intact, jeopardizing family integrity. Please vote against House Bill 1934 and ensure that it is defeated.”

You do not need to identify yourself as a homeschooler; instead you can identify yourself as a concerned parent and taxpayer. Please let the legislator know if you are in his or her district.

House Judiciary Committee Members

Rep. Jamie Pedersen - Chair (D)
(Primary Sponsor of HB 1506)
Phone: (360) 786-7826
Email: Jamie.Pedersen@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Drew Hanson- Vice Chair (D)
(Sponsor of HB 1506)
Phone: (360) 786-7842
Email: Drew.Hansen@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Jay Rodne (R)
Phone: (360) 786-7852
Email: Jay.Rodne@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Steve O'Ban (R)
Phone: (360) 786-7890
Email: Steve.Oban@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Roger Goodman - (D)
(sponsor of HB 1506)
Phone: (360) 786-7878

Email: Roger.Goodman@leg.wa.gov
Rep. Mike Hope (R)
(sponsor of HB 1506)
Phone: (360)786-7692
Email: Mike.Hope@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D)
(sponsor of HB 1506)
Phone: (360) 786-7930
Email: Laurie.Jinkins@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Steve Kirby (D)
Phone: (360) 786-7996
Email: Steve.Kirby@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Brad Klippert (R)
Phone: (360) 786-7882
Email: Brad.Klippert@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Terry Nealey (R)
(sponsor of HB 1506)
Phone: (360) 786-7828
Email: Terry.Nealey@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Tina Orwall (D)
(sponsor of HB 1506)
Phone: (360) 786-7834
Email: Tina.Orwall@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Mary Helen Roberts (D)
(sponsor of HB 1506)
Phone: (360) 786-7950
Email: MaryHelen.Roberts@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Matt Shea (R)
Phone: (360) 786-7984
Email: Matt.Shea@leg.wa.gov

Status:

02/19/2013     (House)     First reading, referred to Judiciary
02/19/2013     (House)     Executive action taken in committee.
02/21/2013     (House)     JUDI - Majority; 1st substitute bill be substituted, do pass. Minority; do not pass.
02/22/2013     (House)     Passed to Rules Committee for second reading.
03/05/2013     (House)     Placed on second reading by Rules Committee.
03/07/2013     (House)     1st substitute bill substituted (JUDI 13). Floor amendment(s) adopted. Rules suspended. Placed on Third Reading. Third reading, passed; yeas, 56; nays, 40; absent, 0; excused, 2.
In the Senate
03/11/2013     (Senate)     First reading, referred to Human Services & Corrections.
03/26/2031     (Senate)     Public hearing in the Senate Committee on Human Services & Corrections at 10:00 a.m.
4/20/2013     (Senate)     By resolution, returned to House Rules Committee for third reading.
4/28/2013     (Senate)     Session Adjourns
2013 1ST SPECIAL SESSION IN THE HOUSE
05/13/2013     (House)     By resolution, reintroduced and retained in present status.

2014 REGULAR SESSION
01/13/2014     (House)     By resolution, reintroduced and retained in present status.

Background:

Over the years, HSLDA has represented member families in conflict with grandparents and other relatives who did not like homeschooling. These relatives would occasionally 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, House Bill 1934 would allow any third party to sue the parent for visitation rights. If this bill becomes law, a person 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.

On the surface this bill appears to protect parents’ rights by acknowledging that the decision of a fit parent is presumed to be in the child’s best interest. Under House Bill 1934, the person filing a petition for visitation rights only has to allege that he or she had a sufficient relationship with the child before “interference” by the parent and that the child would likely suffer harm or the substantial risk of harm if visitation is not granted. A court then would hold a hearing if it finds it is more likely than not that visitation will be granted.

In addition, House Bill 1934 does have a presumption that “a fit parent’s decision to deny visitation is in the best interest of the child and does not create a likelihood of harm or substantial risk of harm to the child.” However, this presumption can be overcome by the petitioner by clear and convincing evidence that the child would likely suffer harm or the substantial risk of harm if visitation is not granted.

In Troxel v. Granville the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the prior visitation statute in Washington because the fundamental right of the parent to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of the children was violated. Justice Thomas, in his concurring opinion, stated that the standard of review to apply in this situation would be the strict scrutiny standard. This standard requires the law or policy enacted to be justified by a compelling governmental interest, that it be narrowly tailored to achieve that goal or interest, and that it be the least restrictive means for achieving that interest. We do not believe House Bill 1934 does this.

Ever since 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Washington’s visitation statute in Troxel v. Granville, the legislature has attempted to pass another visitation statute. Up to now all have failed because they don’t adequately protect the right of parents to make decisions on behalf of their children. Please contact the members listed above now to oppose House Bill 1934!

The only difference between House Bill 1934 and House Bill 1506 is that the legislative summary is different. We have reason to believe that this was done to prevent an amendment striking the whole bill. The number of sponsors also indicates that Rep. Pedersen is aggressively trying to get this bill passed.

 Other Resources

Bill Text

Bill History

House Bill 1934 was successfully amended twice in the Judiciary committee.

Access the text of the amendments.

Effect of the first amendment:

"Revises the provision describing 'ongoing and substantial relationship' to add that there must be mutuality of interest and affection, and a shared expectation of and desire for an ongoing relationship. Provides that an ongoing and substantial relationship may not be established based solely on a relationship that results from the person's role as a paid or volunteer service provider, such as a teacher, counselor, coach, or child care provider."

HSLDA believes this is on the whole a positive amendment to the bill.

Effect of the second amendment:

"Revises the provision governing the award of attorneys' fees to provide:

  • The court must require the petitioner to pay a reasonable amount for costs and reasonable attorneys' fees to the respondent in advance unless the court finds it would be unjust to do so considering the financial resources of the parties; and
  • Regardless of the financial resources of the parties the court must order the petitioner to pay a reasonable amount for costs and reasonable attorneys' fees if the court finds that the petition was brought in bad faith or without reasonable basis."

Essentially the amendment allows the judge to look at the finances of both parties and decide not to require the petitioner to pay for the defense.