June 12, 2007

House File 259: Granting Grandparent Visitation Rights

Representative Joe Mullery

House File 259 would allow grandparents and great-grandparents to petition the court for visitation rights against the wishes of parents. The court would have the authority to grant visitation rights if it finds that visitation is:

  1. In the child's best interests;
  2. Does not interfere with the parent/child relationship.

This bill is an attack on parental rights, as it allows the courts to override a parent’s decision to limit a child's contact with grandparents.

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 with whom we come in contact at HSLDA support homeschooling and in some situations even participate in the teaching.

However, House File 259 would give grandparents the right to sue parents for visitation. If this bill becomes law, grandparents could petition the court for visitation rights when both parents are together and not just when there is a pending dissolution, legal separation, or modification of a parenting plan proceeding.

Of course, if a grandparent brings a suit under this act, 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 between 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.

1/22/2007 (House) Introduced and referred to Public Safety and Civil Justice

HSLDA's Position:

Action Requested:

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Bill Text

Bill History