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Senate Bill 28 would add great-grandparents to various provisions of Indiana law that already allow grandparents to petition a court for visitation rights. However, Senate Bill 28 would allow a great-grandparent or grandparent to request visitation rights whenever the parent terminated the child's visits after the great-grandparent/grandparent "has had meaningful contact with the child."
Thus, two happily married parents who determined after careful consideration that they need to cut off contact with great-grandparents/grandparents for a time could find themselves ordered by a court to allow great-grandparent/grandparent visitation under this bill.
Under current law grandparents can petition a court for visitation rights only if the child's parent is deceased, the marriage of the child's parents has been dissolved in Indiana, or when a child was born out of wedlock.
If Senate Bill 28 passes and a petition is filed a court would then determine whether it was in the best interest of the child for visitation based upon a number of different factors. While the wishes of the parent would be one factor the court would consider, there is no presumption that a fit parent makes decisions in the best interest of their child. Under this bill, the court could ultimately decide to overrule the parents decision.
HSLDA is opposed to Senate Bill 28 because this bill could allow the decision of two fit parents to be challenged in court. In our opinion it would violate the fundamental right of parents to the custody, care and nurture of their child. Numerous U.S. Supreme Court cases have held that parents "have the right and the high duty" to "direct the upbringing and education of (their) children."
01/07/2013 (Senate) First reading: Referred to Committee on Judiciary
Over the years, HSLDA has represented member families in conflict with grandparents who did not like homeschooling. These grandparents would try to stop the homeschooling through various means including turning the family over to the 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, Senate Bill 28 would give grandparents and great-grandparents the right to petition the court for visitation rights. If this bill becomes law, they could bring natural parents who are still married to each other if "as a result of an estrangement between the parent of the child and the grandparent or great-grandparent, the parent of the child terminated the child's visits with the grandparent or great-grandparent."
Of course, if a great-grandparents/grandparent brings such a petition under this act, the court may order family mediation and a psychological evaluation of the child. Parental rights would be ignored.
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