SELECT COMMITTEE ON CHILDREN

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

BILL NO.:

HB-5313

TITLE:

AN ACT CONCERNING VISITATION TO GRANDCHILDREN.

VOTE DATE:

3/9/2010

VOTE ACTION:

JOINT FAVORABLE SUBSTITUTE CHANGE OF REFERENCE TO JUDICIARY

PH DATE:

3/2/2010

FILE NO.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Select Committee on Children

REASONS FOR BILL:

In recognizing that grandparents and grandchildren serve important roles in each other's lives, this bill provides for grandparents visitation with grandchildren in certain limited circumstances.

For Proposed Substitute Bill 5313 (as contained in LCO No. 2186) changes occur in Section 1 subsection (b) – the court shall grant an order if the applicant demonstrates that visitation is in the best interests of the child plus one of the three other factors outlined in this section.

Amendment A – Changes title of bill to “An Act Concerning Visitation by Grandchildren”

Amendment B – On line 24, after the words “the parent” adds a comma and then adds the words “who is the child of the grandparent seeking visitation”

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Elaine Zimmerman, Executive Director, CT Commission on Children: Supports this bill. Grandparents are sometimes ignored when a divorce, death, drug addiction or criminal conviction occur. The omission of the grandparent at this point is all the more detrimental to the child as there has already been one loss of a parent, temporary or not. When a child loses a grandparent during a death of a parent, criminal conviction, drug or alcohol abuse, or divorce simply because the other parent or adults involved neglect to bring in elder, this harms the child. “We recommend its passage.”

Julia Evans Starr, Executive Director, Connecticut Commission on Aging: Supports this bill. We heard heartbreaking stories at the Joint Informational Forum on Grandparents Rights from individuals who had lost contact with their grandchildren. “This loss of contact unfortunately often follows the death of a child, exacerbating an already-grievous situation. The benefits of intergenerational interaction are well-documented. For older adults, frequent interaction with children stimulates learning; decreases loneliness, boredom and depression; increases feelings of happiness and interest; and provides socialization. For children, interaction with older adults enhances communication skills; promotes self-esteem; and develops problem-solving abilities.” “The proposal before you in HB 5313 could provide a partial solution for some grandparents in our state to gain visitation rights when appropriate.”

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Senator Robert J. Kane, Thirty-second district: Supports this bill. “When a marriage breaks up, or parents go their separate ways, the children are the ones who suffer most.” “This bill seeks to provide some protection that the rights of grandparents to see their grandchildren will be respected and protected. Grandparents are an important part of a child's life, often serving as the emotional touchstone of a family.” “This bill would provide that grandparents, when it is found to be in the best interest of the child, shall be given visitation rights.” “To prevent a grandparent from being 'there' for a grandchild is a wrong policy that we need to change.”

Mr. & Mrs. Jon Ricketts: Support this bill. There is a special bond between grandparents and grandchildren that is irreplaceable. “Seeing the relationship between our parents and our children makes my heart swell.” Grandchildren have the right to have a relationship with their grandparents.

Suzanne Faucher: Supports this bill. “We have been the only babysitter our grandchildren ever had since the day they were born. Later, the relationship with grandchildren was abruptly ended by her son and she has not seen or heard from the grandchildren since. After hiring an attorney, were told: “Connecticut has no grandparent's rights…”

Richard Faucher: Supports this bill. “Connecticut's Grandparent's Rights Law definitely needs to be changed…updated…anything…”

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Susan Hoffman, Advocates for Grandparent Grandchild Connection: Opposes this bill. She supports the idea of the bill, but not in its current language. “The content in this current draft is not what was referenced in our proposed bill language in fact it is counter to our proposal. This bill as an attempt at 'code clean up' does not make sense as it is framed. It is vague, too broad, confusing, incomplete and fragmentary…” “The factors that help make a statute survive is if it sensibly narrows the class of parties with standing to petition and if it expressly creates a presumption in favor of the SUPREME COURT'S mandate that parental preference be given consideration.”

Deborah Lamiotte: Opposes this bill. She supports the idea of the bill, but not in its current language. “ Reading over Connecticut's present statute, and this new proposed bill made me realize that either you do not understand what it is that we are asking for or that it is too hot a political/controversial issue.” ”This bill is worthless to both grandparents and their grandchildren in its present language.” “We do not want a parental type of relationship with our grandchildren. We simply want to be grandparents.”

Jseph A. Barile & Bettie Lou Barile: Opposes this bill. She supports the idea of the bill, but not in its current language. Upon the death of a parent, grandparents that had a significant relationship with their grandchild should be able to continue the relationship, for the well being of the child. I feel that whatever the existing relationship was at the time of death, with the family of the deceased, that that relationship should be encouraged to continue in the best interest of the child, otherwise the child suffers further. A grandparent is simply looking to maintain a relationship with their grandchildren and not looking for custody.

Cathy Hartley: Opposes this bill. She supports the idea of the bill, but not in its current language. I don't agree with the word 'parental'; this word is surely up to interpretation. “Is it not logical that a child will certainly suffer real and substantial harm if, when his/her mother has died is not allowed seeing his loving grandmother?”

Suzanne Wallace, Child Guidance Center: Opposes this bill. She supports the idea of the bill, but not in its current language. “Children need grandparents in their lives. All of us would agree to that!” “HB 5313 unfortunately is poorly written and not in the best interests of the children.” “We are requesting a New statue be enacted and leave the current one alone, based on the information above.” “A concern here, are the rights of the child to maintain a pre-existing bond with which they have formed with a loving grandparent.”

LoriAnn Grove: Opposes this bill. She supports the idea of the bill, but not in its current language. “Grandparents are not looking to amend 46b-59, Grandparents want a new statute to be drafted with specific criteria and court guidance pertaining to grandparents and visitation of their grandchildren.” “Grandparents are seeking visitation with our grandchildren; not custody.” “When a child has an existing bond with the grandparents, it should not be broken. What about a child's right to his/her biological family?” Grandparents seem to be used by the state as a means of a 'placement' of their children's children, only after harm to the child has been substantiated. Yet grandparents don't have a right to visit their grandchildren…we are mistreated by the laws and courts.

Gaye Lynne Eschert: Opposes this bill. She supports the idea of the bill, but not in its current language. She has a grandson, Devin, who lived with her for about 7 years and was taken from her by his biological mother. Devin told her he loved living with her because he felt “safe” with her. She tried to get guardianship of Devin but his mother refused. “Bridgeport DCF informed me that they were only concerned with physical abuse and not emotional.” “The bill you are about to pass is too much like the bill which has prevented me access to my grandson and vice versa.”

REPORTED BY: CRISTINA SISCA, ELIZABETH S. GIANNAROS, CLERK

DATE: MARCH 16, 2010

   
   


Carmen Olga Watson:
Opposes this bill. She supports the idea of the bill, but not in its current language. “Before my daughter had her bone marrow transplant, she told her son
's dad that she wanted to be assured, that if she did not survive, their son/my grandson would remain a part of our lives. The dad said, 'of course' yet, after her death the father curtailed all visitations with the exception of brief supervised periods at his home. “My daughter died believing her son would still have the comfort of her parents and her family. She was betrayed.” When amending this law, this panel should consider that when a parent dies, that whatever the existing relationship was at the time of death, with the family of the deceased, that that relationship should be encouraged to continue.