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General Assembly

File No. 702

    January Session, 2017

Substitute House Bill No. 7244

House of Representatives, April 25, 2017

The Committee on Judiciary reported through REP. TONG of the 147th Dist., Chairperson of the Committee on the part of the House, that the substitute bill ought to pass.

AN ACT CONCERNING A GRANDPARENT'S RIGHT TO VISITATION WITH HIS OR HER GRANDCHILD.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Section 46b-59 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2017):

(a) As used in this section:

(1) "Grandparent" means a grandparent or great-grandparent related to a minor child by (A) blood, (B) marriage, or (C) adoption of the minor child by a child of the grandparent; and

(2) "Real and significant harm" means that the minor child is neglected, as defined in section 46b-120, or uncared for, as defined in said section.

(b) Any person may submit a verified petition to the Superior Court for the right of visitation with any minor child, [. Such petition] except that if a verified petition has been filed by a grandparent and (1) either or both parents of the minor child are deceased, (2) the parents of the minor child are divorced, or (3) the parents of the minor child are living separate and apart in different habitats, the verified petition for the right of visitation shall be determined in accordance with the provisions of section 2 of this act. A verified petition submitted under this section shall include specific and good-faith allegations that [(1)] (A) a parent-like relationship exists between the person and the minor child, and [(2)] (B) denial of visitation would cause real and significant harm. Subject to subsection (e) of this section, the court shall grant the right of visitation with any minor child to any person if the court finds after hearing and by clear and convincing evidence that a parent-like relationship exists between the person and the minor child and denial of visitation would cause real and significant harm.

(c) In determining whether a parent-like relationship exists between the person and the minor child, the Superior Court may consider, but shall not be limited to, the following factors:

(1) The existence and length of a relationship between the person and the minor child prior to the submission of a petition pursuant to this section;

(2) The length of time that the relationship between the person and the minor child has been disrupted;

(3) The specific parent-like activities of the person seeking visitation toward the minor child;

(4) Any evidence that the person seeking visitation has unreasonably undermined the authority and discretion of the custodial parent;

(5) The significant absence of a parent from the life of a minor child;

(6) The death of one of the minor child's parents;

(7) The physical separation of the parents of the minor child;

(8) The fitness of the person seeking visitation; and

(9) The fitness of the custodial parent.

(d) In determining whether a parent-like relationship exists between a grandparent seeking visitation pursuant to this section and a minor child, the Superior Court may consider, in addition to the factors enumerated in subsection (c) of this section, the history of regular contact and proof of a close and substantial relationship between the grandparent and the minor child.

(e) If the Superior Court grants the right of visitation pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, the court shall set forth the terms and conditions of visitation including, but not limited to, the schedule of visitation, including the dates or days, time and place or places in which the visitation can occur, whether overnight visitation will be allowed and any other terms and conditions that the court determines are in the best interest of the minor child, provided such conditions shall not be contingent upon any order of financial support by the court. In determining the best interest of the minor child, the court shall consider the wishes of the minor child if such minor child is of sufficient age and capable of forming an intelligent opinion. In determining the terms and conditions of visitation, the court may consider (1) the effect that such visitation will have on the relationship between the parents or guardians of the minor child and the minor child, and (2) the effect on the minor child of any domestic violence that has occurred between or among the parents, grandparents, persons seeking visitation and the minor child.

(f) Visitation rights granted in accordance with this section shall not be deemed to have created parental rights in the person or persons to whom such visitation rights are granted, nor shall such visitation rights be a ground for preventing the relocation of the custodial parent. The grant of such visitation rights shall not prevent any court of competent jurisdiction from thereafter acting upon the custody of such child, the parental rights with respect to such child or the adoption of such child and any such court may include in its decree an order terminating such visitation rights.

(g) Upon motion, the court may order the payment of fees for another party, the attorney for the minor child, the guardian ad litem, or any expert by any party in accordance with such party's financial ability.

Sec. 2. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2017) (a) As used in this section, (1) "grandparent" means a grandparent or great-grandparent related to a minor child by blood, marriage or adoption of the minor child by a child of the grandparent, and (2) "unreasonably depriving the grandparent of the opportunity to visit with the minor child" includes, but is not limited to, denying a grandparent the opportunity to visit with the minor child for a period of time exceeding ninety days.

(b) Any grandparent may submit a verified petition under this section to the Superior Court for the right of visitation with a minor child, as described in subdivision (1) of subsection (a) of this section, when (1) either or both parents of the minor child are deceased, (2) the parents of the minor child are divorced, or (3) the parents of the minor child are living separate and apart in different habitats. The court shall grant the right of visitation with any minor child to any grandparent if the court finds after hearing and by clear and convincing evidence that: (A) The child's parents or guardians are unreasonably depriving the grandparent of the opportunity to visit with the minor child; (B) awarding the grandparent visitation will not interfere with the relationship between the minor child and the parents or guardians; and (C) (i) the minor child's parents or guardians are unfit, or (ii) there are compelling circumstances to overcome the presumption that the decision by the parents or guardians to deny the grandparent visitation is in the best interest of the minor child, provided any determination by the court as to the best interest of the minor child shall be made utilizing Judicial Branch resources and at no cost to the parties.

(c) The court may award the prevailing party necessary and reasonable expenses incurred by or on behalf of the party, including costs and attorneys' fees.

This act shall take effect as follows and shall amend the following sections:

Section 1

October 1, 2017

46b-59

Sec. 2

October 1, 2017

New section

JUD

Joint Favorable Subst.

 

The following Fiscal Impact Statement and Bill Analysis are prepared for the benefit of the members of the General Assembly, solely for purposes of information, summarization and explanation and do not represent the intent of the General Assembly or either chamber thereof for any purpose. In general, fiscal impacts are based upon a variety of informational sources, including the analyst's professional knowledge. Whenever applicable, agency data is consulted as part of the analysis, however final products do not necessarily reflect an assessment from any specific department.


OFA Fiscal Note

State Impact: None

Municipal Impact: None

Explanation

The bill creates a different statutory standard for certain visitation hearings and does not result in a fiscal impact.

The Out Years

State Impact: None

Municipal Impact: None

OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 7244

AN ACT CONCERNING A GRANDPARENT'S RIGHT TO VISITATION WITH HIS OR HER GRANDCHILD.

SUMMARY

This bill creates a different statutory standard for a grandparent seeking visitation of a minor grandchild when (1) at least one parent is deceased, (2) the parents are divorced, or (3) the parents do not live together. It applies existing law's third-party visitation standards (described below) to situations in which a grandparent is seeking visitation of a minor grandchild whose parents are alive, married, or living together.

By law, a “grandparent” is a grandparent or great-grandparent related to a minor child by blood, marriage, or adoption.

For petitions filed in the Superior Court under the new standard, the bill:

The bill also makes technical and conforming changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2017

VISITATION STANDARD WHEN THE CHILD'S PARENTS ARE APART

Standard

The bill requires a grandparent seeking visitation of a minor grandchild whose parents are apart (i.e., divorced, not cohabitating, or at least one is deceased) to petition the court under the bill's new standards.

Under the bill, the court must grant visitation rights if, at a hearing on such a petition, it finds by clear and convincing evidence that:

Under the bill, "unreasonably depriving the grandparent of the opportunity to visit with the minor child" includes denying a grandparent the opportunity to visit with the child for more than 90 days.

(It is unclear how the Connecticut Supreme Court would view the bill's language in light of its rulings on federal constitutional requirements regarding visitation and parental rights (see BACKGROUND).)

EXISTING THIRD-PARTY VISITATION STANDARD

Standard

Under existing law, the court must grant a third-party who submits a verified petition 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.

Under the bill, the third-party standard does not apply to a grandparent seeking visitation of a child whose parents are apart.

Parent-like Relationship

In determining whether a parent-like relationship exists between the person seeking visitation and the child, the court may consider the following:

In determining whether a parent-like relationship exists between a grandparent and a grandchild, the court may also consider the history of regular contact and proof of a close and substantial relationship between the grandparent and the child.

BACKGROUND

Related Federal Case

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.

Related Connecticut Case

In 2002, the Connecticut Supreme Court reviewed Connecticut's then-existing third party visitation statute in light of the federal constitutional requirements discussed in Troxel. The court imposed requirements on a third party, including a grandparent, seeking visitation under the statute. The court required the third party to make specific, good-faith allegations that (1) a parent-like relationship exists between the child and the person seeking visitation and (2) denial of the visitation will cause real and significant harm to the child. Once these jurisdictional hurdles are overcome, the court ruled that a petitioner must prove the allegations by clear and convincing evidence (Roth v. Weston, 259 Conn. 202 (2002), DiGiovanna v. St. George, 300 Conn. 59 (2011)). These requirements are currently codified in statute.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

41

Nay

0

(04/07/2017)

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