OLR Bill Analysis
AN ACT CONCERNING A GRANDPARENT'S RIGHT OF VISITATION WITH A GRANDCHILD.
This bill expands the circumstances under which a court must grant a grandparent the right to visit a minor grandchild.
Under the bill, the court must grant such a visitation right if at a hearing the grandparent can prove by clear and convincing evidence that compelling circumstances exist that overcome the presumption that the parental decision to deny such visitation is in the child's best interest (see related case in BACKGROUND). The bill requires the grandparent to include in his or her petition a specific and good-faith allegation of such compelling circumstances.
The law, unchanged by the bill, requires the court to grant a third-party, including a grandparent, the right to visit a child if it finds by clear and convincing evidence that (1) a parent-like relationship exists between the person and the child and (2) denial of visitation would cause real and significant harm. The law establishes specific factors the court may consider in determining if a parent-like relationship exists.
By law, a “grandparent” is a grandparent or great-grandparent related to a minor child by blood, marriage, or adoption.
EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2016
In determining whether a parent-like relationship exists between the person seeking visitation and the child, the court may consider the following:
1. existence and length of a relationship between the person and the child prior to the submission of a petition,
2. length of time that the relationship between the person and the child has been disrupted,
3. specific parent-like activities of the person seeking visitation toward the child,
4. any evidence that the person seeking visitation has unreasonably undermined the authority and discretion of the custodial parent,
5. significant absence of a parent from the child's life,
6. death of one of the child's parents,
7. physical separation of the child's parents,
8. fitness of the person seeking visitation, and
9. fitness of the custodial parent.
In determining whether a parent-like relationship exists between a grandparent and a grandchild, the judge may also consider the history of regular contact and proof of a close and substantial relationship between the grandparent and the child (CGS § 46b-59).
In Troxel v. Granville, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the State of Washington's grandparent visitation statute violated the U.S. Constitution's Due Process Clause because it interfered with a parent's right to make decisions about the care, custody, and control of his or her children (120 S.Ct. 2054 (2000)).
Under Troxel, state laws must (1) give deference to a fit parent's decision to deny visitation, (2) put the burden of proof on the grandparent, and (3) afford due process to a fit parent's decision.