Judiciary Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-5608

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING A GRANDPARENT'S RIGHT OF VISITATION WITH A GRANDCHILD.

Vote Date:

3/28/2016

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable

PH Date:

3/14/2016

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Judiciary Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

To lower the standards by which judges may consider in determining grandparents third party visitation rights to their grandchildren

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Commission on Aging, Julia Evans Starr, Executive Director: Special Act 11-12 established a Task Force to Study Grandparents' Visitation Rights. The Legislative Commission on Aging was charged with staffing the task force. The Task Force comprised of attorneys representing parents and grandparents, a family court judge, legislators and grandparents, went through a deliberate process in the fall of 2011 to identify statutory changes to the third party visitation statute while satisfying constitutional standards. The Task Force report can be found on the Commission's website (www.fga.ct.gov/coa)

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Sean Butterly: Supports this bill. I am an attorney and educator and I teach law to approximately 250 kids each year. There I interact with wonderful social workers, guidance counselors, school psychologists and administrators. We educators are collaborative, not adversarial, in our approach to handling kids. We know instinctively and through data how much grandparents mean to children. They are a key ingredient to almost every high school kid's happiness and wellbeing.

Grandparents' Rights Association of the United States of America, Emidio C. Cerasale: Supports this bill. We at GRAUSA, are primarily concerned with the right/ability of the children to know, understand, and have a connection with their extended family and heritage. Sadly we have a whole generation of young parents who have been brought up in an “environment of entitlement” which has instilled an attitude of believing they have all the answers, and no one could possible know any better, in spite of may years of life experience. We also understand there really are some grandparents who do want to assume all control, and we recognize there must be provisions to deal with that. The bottom line is, it should always primarily boil down to what is best for the children.

Charlotte Pettit: Supports this bill. Charlotte submitted testimony stating that she once had been raising her adoptive grandchildren who were subsequently returned to their biological father. Since then her once happy relationship has been severely curtailed to only supervised visits. She feels the bill would help them have a closer relationship.

Henry J. Martocchio: Supports this bill: Submitted testimony citing numerous state court's decisions regarding grandparent visitation rights.

Educaloi.qc.ca: Submitted testimony outlining legal rights of grandparents and grandchildren and other grandparent/grandchild issues.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut, Inc. Raphael Podolsky: Opposes this bill. Supreme Court cases affirmed the federal constitutional right of fit parents to make decisions about the raising of their children without interference from others, sometimes known as the right to family integrity. The cases explicitly hold that, as a threshold matter to litigation, third parties, including grandparents, cannot seek visitation over the objection of the child's parent unless they can show both that (1) they have a parent-like relationship with the child and (2) denial of visitation to the third party would cause harm to the child analogous to neglect under the Juvenile Court statutes. This bill proposes to lower the standards with a list of nine factors for the court to consider. These factors are very close to an open-ended offer to judges to label anything “compelling” and thereby override what the Supreme Court has directly held to be the fundamental right to family integrity.

Reported by: George Marinelli

April 7, 2016