State Rep. Joseph Serra (D-Middletown), who serves as House Chairman of the Legislature’s Committee on Aging, led the floor debate on legislation (HB5440) approved by the House of Representatives to enhance the rights of grandparents seeking visitation rights with their grandchildren.
The bill, based on recommendations of a task force chaired by Serra on Grandparents’ Visitation Rights, gives grandparents and other third parties a defined process for seeking visitation rights via court petition. The legislation is in response to a Connecticut Supreme Court ruling that denied a visitation petition, which had previously been approved by a lower court, due to the lack of specific “good faith” grievances.
“As any family knows, these are very complicated, emotional relationships, and it is important to do our best to ensure that decisions are made in a child’s best interests,” said Serra. “What we have developed is a roadmap that grandparents can use as a guide so a judge can better assess each situation.”
The legislation requires a grandparents’ visitation petition to include a showing of specific information including the existence of a parent-like relationship and activities, and that a denial of visitation rights could cause harm to the child. The bill then requires a court to hold a hearing and grant the request if clear and convincing evidence has shown such conditions exist.
The state participated on the task force and supports the bill which they said “balances the constitutional right of parents to make decisions in the best interests of their children, with the desire of grandparents to be an important part of their grandchildren’s lives.”