Wednesday, February 13, 2013

2013 Indiana SB 171 and SB 28 Great Grandparent Visitation - Legislation Part 24

Senate Bill 0171 Grandparent and great-grandparent visitation, sponsored by Senator Brent Steele, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, comes on for hearing today at 10:00 a.m. in Room 130 of the Indiana State House. There are four additional bills being heard during this session.

Senate Bill 171 affects the following citations: IC 31-9-2-48.3; IC 31-14-14-3; IC 31-17. The synopsis is as follows:
Grandparent and great-grandparent visitation. Allows great-grandparents to seek visitation rights with their great-grandchildren in certain circumstances. Allows a grandparent or great-grandparent to seek visitation if the grandparent or great-grandparent has had meaningful contact with the child but, as a result of an estrangement between the parent of the child and the grandparent or great-grandparent, the parent of the child has terminated the child's visits with the grandparent or great-grandparent. Establishes factors for the court to consider in determining whether granting a grandparent or great-grandparent visitation rights is in the best interests of the child. Provides that a court may order a party to a proceeding on a petition for grandparent or great-grandparent visitation to pay a reasonable amount of the cost to the other party of maintaining or defending the proceeding, including costs for attorney's fees and mediation. Specifies that certain agencies may not be required to pay costs. Makes conforming changes. Senator Lonnie Randolph has authored Senate Bill 28 which provides a broader application and framework to the current grandparent and great grandparent visitation statutes. SB28 does little more than add “great grandparent” to the current grandparent statutory scheme found under IC 31-9-2-48.3, IC 31-14-14-3, and various portions of IC 31-17 except in one meaningful way.

31-17-5-1 is amended by this bill to read --
A child's grandparent or great-grandparent may seek visitation rights if: (4) subject to subsection (b), the grandparent or great-grandparent has had meaningful contact with the child but, as a result of an estrangement between the parent of the child and the grandparent or great-grandparent, the parent of the child terminated the child's visits with the grandparent or great-grandparent.

In the current statutory scheme grandparents may seek a visitation order in paternity and dissolution of marriage cases. The rationale behind the existing statutes is that parents will withhold from the child the opportunity to be engaged in a meaningful relationship with the parents of the targeted parent as a perceived form of revenge or punishment against the targeted parent. This is the type of abuse of children that I often see being perpetuated in the high conflict cases where I specialize.

Senator Brent Steele has authored SB0171 which mirrors SB0028. Steele had introduced a similar bill in the 2010 session which resulted in heated debate over the controversial inclusion of bringing intact, married families within the jurisdiction of the family law courts. What became the engrossed bill that year now emerges as Senate Bills 28 and 171. Three years ago this was one of the most difficult child custody related proposals that I had to grapple with. I expressed support for some parts and offered suggestions about those that I couldn't support as written. Since that time I have studied much more about this and been privy to numerous cases.

Although compelling testimony was provide in both support and opposition of the proposal, on balance I believe that it is dangerous to open intact families to the purview and control of the courts which have shown a propensity to harm relationships of parents and their children. The danger to children is more compelling when the use of child custody evaluators, GALs and other MHPs is considered. The psychology establishment has permitted the tenets and practices of clinical psychology to be incorporated into our laws and our courtrooms, knowing full well that they are untested, untestable, profoundly unscientific, and not even generally held to be factually true. There are no special secret tests for any of the factors that child clinicians claim are so crucial to their so-called professional opinions.

In the case of Indianapolis based Child Advocates, Inc., which provides evaluation services to Marion County courts, these pseudo child advocates actually engage in tactics specifically designed to prolong litigation, cause conflict between the parents and ultimately harm the children.

While this concept of maintaining bonds between children and all grandparents and great grandparents may appear noble and beneficial as written we must also foresee it in practice. Just as the death penalty was envisioned to be a protector of society that would permanently keep the most horrific offenders from having the opportunity to again do harm, it hasn't worked that way in practice. The death penalty is overwhelming applied towards specific racial and economic classes. Additionally, and most disturbing, is that it has been applied to people who did not commit the crime.

Without safeguards to ensure that the classic junk science of clinical psychology is not allowed to ooze into these cases and perpetuate harm, this bill should be opposed.

If you need assistance with a child custody matter then please visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me.

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More information about child custody rights and procedures may be found on the Indiana Custodial Rights Advocates website.

©2008, 2013 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

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