OPPOSE SB 27: Challenging Parental Decisions Regarding Visitation with a Grandparent or Great-Grandparent

Executive Summary

SB 27 would change state law to allow a grandparent or great-grandparent to seek visitation rights with their grandchild or great-grandchild against the wishes of the parents. 

 

Analysis

Current state law allows a grandparent to seek visitation rights with a grandchild if:  the parents are deceased, the parents’ divorce, or the child was born out of wedlock.   SB 27 expands this law significantly by allowing grandparents and great-grandparents to seek visitation rights simply because the parents stop allowing visitation. 

IFI understands the importance of grandparents and great-grandparents in the lives of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Healthy relationships between a child and his or her grandparent and great-grandparent can and should be a source of joy for families.

However, SB 27 would allow grandparents and great-grandparents to force parents, at their expense, to appear before a judge to explain why the parents have ceased allowing visitation.  The result of this bill would be diminished parental rights in Indiana. 

For example, if a grandparent would not cease using offensive language, watching inappropriate entertainment, smoking, drinking or doing anything else that the parents deemed inappropriate during time with the grandchild and the parents were finally forced to cease allowing the grandchild to visit with the grandparent until the grandparent agreed to cease the offensive activities, under SB 27 the grandparent could force a hearing before a judge to determine if visitation is appropriate and possibly even force visitation against the will of the parent.  Moving basic parenting decisions away from parents and onto judges is a mistake.

 

Conclusion

We all know heartbreaking stories of wonderful grandparents and great-grandparents who would be a positive influence in the lives of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, yet are unable to because of irresponsible or even neglectful parents.  Encouraging healthy relationships between children and their grandparents and great-grandparents is a worthy goal.  However, SB 27 would create more problems than it would fix.  Changing visitation law is not the proper tool for addressing neglectful and abusive parents.  Instead, SB 27 would actually restrict the ability of good parents to maintain a stable, healthy environment for their children. 

IFI opposes SB 27.