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Date:
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2/17/2009 4:14:15 PM
Home School Legal Defense Association
Washington: Multiple Bills Allow Court to Order Grandparent Visitation

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From the HSLDA E-lert Service...
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February 17, 2009

Washington: Multiple Bills Allow Court to Order Grandparent Visitation

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends:

A total of six bills have been introduced since the end of January
that would permit grandparents to request court-ordered visitation
against the wishes of fit parents. While there are three distinct
bills, each with a companion bill, all of the bills would allow a
grandparent to petition the court to order visitation even when both
parents are married.

All of these bills would permit a grandparent to ask the court to
order visitation even when the 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 bills should be strongly opposed as an attack on parental
rights. Instead of presuming that fit parents make decisions in the
best interest of their children, these bills would only require the
court to give "deference" to the decisions of fit parents, while
examining whether their decision was reasonable and in the best
interest of the child.

Some of you may remember that similar bills were introduced last year,
but with your calls they were defeated. We need your calls once again.
Please contact the legislators listed below and urge them to defeat
this bill. To check on the status of these and other bills please go
to http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=6139 .

ACTION REQUESTED:

1) Please call and/or email both your state senator and representative
and give them this message in your own words:

"Please oppose the grandparent visitation bills. These bills are House
Bills 1607, 2056 and 2091 as well as Senate Bills 5477, 5643 and 6013.
These bills violate a parent's fundamental right to direct the care,
custody, and control of their children. A fit parent should always be
presumed to be making decisions in the best interest of their
children, even if it means limiting contact with grandparents. These
bills do not do this.

Additionally, these bills will allow courts to grant visitation rights
even in an intact family, jeopardizing family integrity. Please ensure
that these bills are defeated."

Do not identify yourself as a homeschooler; instead you can identify
yourself as a concerned parent and taxpayer.

To find the name and contact information for your elected officials,
visit HSLDA's Legislative Toolbox at http://www.hslda.org/toolbox .
You can also send a brief message to your elected officials through
the in-state toll-free Legislative Hotline number: 1-800-562-6000.

2) If your state senator or representative is a co-sponsor of any of
these bills, please ask them to withdraw their support of this
legislation.

House Bill 1607 Co-sponsors
Representatives Chase, Dunshee, Green, Haigh, Haler, Kagi, Kenney,
Kessler, Morrell, Ormsby, Roberts, and Rolfes

House Bill 2056 Co-sponsors
Representatives Chase and Condotta

House Bill 2091 Co-sponsors
Representatives Short and Warnick

Senate Bill 5477 Co-sponsors
Senators Carrell, Delvin, Fairley, Jacobsen, Jarrett, Kastama, Marr,
Pridemore, Sheldon, Shin, and Tom.

Senate Bill 5643 Co-sponsors
Senators Franklin and Marr

Senate Bill 6013 Co-sponsor
Senator Carrell


BACKGROUND:

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 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, these bills would give grandparents the right to sue parents
for visitation. If these bills become law, a grandparent 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 these bills, the court
may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child and order
family mediation and a psychological evaluation of the child. Under
these bills the court only needs to give "deference" to the decisions
of fit parents, all the while deciding whether the parents' decision
to limit contact with the grandparents is "reasonable."

On the surface these bills appear to protect parents' rights. However,
a grandparent is only required to demonstrate that he or she had a
"significant relationship" with the child that was allowed to be
formed and established by the parent, that the parent substantially
interfered with the grandparent's relationship, and the child would
likely suffer harm or substantial risk of harm if contact with the
grandparent is not awarded. Once a grandparent demonstrates this, the
burden shifts to 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.

House Bill 1607 and companion Senate Bill 5477 would only require a
grandparent to demonstrate that he had a significant relationship with
the child, that the parent substantially interfered with that
relationship, and the child would likely suffer harm if contact with
the grandparent was not awarded. The court would only have to consider
the fit parent's reasons for denying visitation and determine whether
they were reasonable and in the best interest of the child once the
grandparent presented their case for visitation rights. House Bill
2091 and Senate Bill 6013 are very similar to these bills.

House Bill 2056 and companion Senate Bill 5643 would allow a
grandparent to request court ordered contact if they had a parent-like
relationship with the child. The grandparent would only need to show
that they had this parent-like relationship for a substantial period
of time, it was allowed by the parent to develop, that the
relationship was beneficial to the child and that the parent
substantially interfered with the grandparent's relationship with the
child. The court would award visitation if the child would likely
suffer harm if contact wasn't awarded and denial of contact by the
parent was "unreasonable and not in the child's best interest."

If you are not yet a member of HSLDA and would like to help us fight
for greater homeschool freedom in Washington please visit
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=6140 to join.

If you would like to be put on our free email list to receive vital
e-lerts you may sign up at http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=6141 .

Thank you for your part in fighting for freedom in Washington.

Sincerely,

Thomas Schmidt
HSLDA Staff Attorney

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-> Extreme makeovers are for extreme circumstances...

Most homeschools don't need an extreme makeover, but there is
something to be said for attention to detail and recognition of
accomplishments. Watch the media and you'll soon see that not
everyone wants home educators and homeschooling to look good.
HSLDA works hard to shed light on the good work of home educators
so it's obvious that we don't need someone "making-over" our
homeschools. Join HSLDA and help us show the world that we're fine
as we are . . . thank you!

More reasons to join HSLDA...
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=1943

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