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Susan Adcox

Washington State Works on Grandparents' Rights

By March 10, 2013

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If you are interested in grandparents' rights, you probably know about the State of Washington. Troxel v. Granville, the most important grandparents' rights case, originated in Washington State. The statute revoked in that case was labeled as "breathtakingly broad," and the decision re-affirmed the right of "fit parents" to make decisions regarding their children. In very broad terms, the decision shifted the burden of proof from requiring the parents to show that grandparent visits could be harmful to requiring the grandparents to show that visits with them would be beneficial.

Following Troxel v. Granville, Washington State addressed the issue again, but that statute was found unconstitutional in 2005 by the state Supreme Court. An effort to pass another bill failed in 2006. As a result, Washington's record on grandparents' rights can be described as checkered. The state went from having some of the most liberal laws about grandparent visitation to being the only state lacking a functional statute for grandparents' rights. That may finally be about to change.

The Washington State House of Representatives has passed a new bill, which now goes to the Senate. That bill provides visitation for persons having a substantial relationship with a child of at least two years duration or lasting half the child's life. Grandparents are not specifically named but are expected to be the prime beneficiaries of the law, if it is passed. One advocate of grandparents' rights, Rep. Ruth Kagi, said that this bill addresses both parental rights and what is best for the child in question. If so, it should survive challenges to its constitutionality.

Many Washington grandparents hope that the long period in which their rights were in limbo may soon be over.

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