Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Your Child's Third Parent




Tuesday, February 5, 2013 

Your Child's Third Parent


by Joseph Backholm | Executive Director 

Have you ever had a significant change in one of your relationships with someone you used to be close with?  Has the change in that relationship also changed their relationship with your child?


Third Party Visitation Rights


If so, you need to know about HB 1506, which creates third-party visitation rights for non-parents.


A hearing on this bill is scheduled for tomorrow morning, Wednesday, February 6th, at 8:00 am, in the House Judiciary Committee, John L. O'Brien Building, Hearing Room A. 


This bill would allow a person who is not a child's parent, but who has an "established and ongoing relationship with a child" for at least one year, to go to the court and demand regular visitation with someone else's kid.  The court would be permitted to grant visitation if, in its view, "the child would likely suffer harm or the substantial risk of harm if visitation...were not granted."


If this bill becomes law, it would give a judge the right to determine who gets to spend time with your children.  If for any reason you decide that you no longer want them spending time with someone they currently have a relationship with, you just might be required to explain yourself to a judge.


This bill is being driven by the unlikely coalition of grandparents and gay people.  Grandparents are interested in it because they are sometimes denied the chance to see their grandchildren when their relationship with their children deteriorates.  Gay people are interested in it because they form relationships with their partner's children and want to continue the relationship with the child when the relationship with the child's parent ends.


However, the bill is not limited to those situations.


Literally anyone who has an ongoing relationship with the child can ask for visitation. Even if the judge ultimately agreed with the parent's that visitation should not be granted, the fact that the parents were forced to justify their decision to a judge is very concerning. 


That doesn't happen to free people.


Of course, we could certainly find situations in which we would generally agree that a certain relationship, particularly involving grandparents, would be good for the child in question.  We all wish that families didn't feud in ways that harmed those relationships.


But that's not life on earth. Stuff happens, and when stuff happens in families and friendships, children are sometimes involved as well.


Are we better served as a culture by expecting the adults to be adults and work it out, or by creating another cause of action so the adults can sue each other and give the government yet another way to give oversight in our lives?


Today, courts don't get to substitute their judgment for that of the parents until the parents have been found to be unfit. This would allow judges to intervene in parental decisions even in cases where everyone acknowledges the parents are good parents.


At 1:30pm tomorrow, there will be a hearing on a bill to require parental notification when a minor girl is considering an abortion.  It is somewhat ironic that only a few hours before, some of the same people opposed to parental notification for abortion will be arguing that children suffer a substantial risk of harm if they do not have regular visitation from someone who is not their parent.


Things that make you go hmmmm.


If you have thoughts about this or any other issue, you are encouraged to attend the hearings, visit your legislators in person, call them through the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000, or click below to send them an email.



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The Family Policy Institute of Washington is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to promoting public policy that recognizes the significance and sanctity of the family in Washington State.


Questions? Need assistance? Please email info@fpiw.org.




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