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IBA: Legislative Committee takes action on grandparents rights

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The Indiana General Assembly grappled with some hefty family law issues during the recent legislative session and the IBA was up to the challenge.

A letter from the Indianapolis Bar Association's Legislative Committee was read during discussion in the Indiana House on Senate Bill 59. The Legislative Committee and the Family Law Section had been keeping a close eye on Senate Bill 59 as it progressed through the legislature. The bill, which set out to expand the parameters surrounding grandparent and great-grandparent visitation, was opposed by section members because it would open the door for potentially contentious litigation in intact families.

IBA Members were kept abreast of legislation this year via updates in the IBA E-Bulletin electronic newsletter and targeted e-mails. "It is critical that members of the Bar be aware and involved in the issues being addressed by the legislature," said Kerry Hyatt Blomquist, co-chair of the IBA's Legislative Committee. "In general terms, our legislators are passing laws that we, as lawyers, will be referencing and that we, as judges, will be interpreting."

Senate Bill 59 was defeated on third reading in the Indiana House on Feb. 25. As of press time, no further action had taken place, but the bill could be revived in conference committee or attached to another piece of legislation.

A letter written by Blomquist outlining the IBA's opposition to SB 59 was read by Rep. Cindy Noe (R-Indianapolis), during discussion before the final vote.

In part, the letter stated: "This bill would create a cause of action for every disgruntled grandparent and allow them the remedy of filing a law suit when they are not allowed to see their grandchildren. Please understand that we are talking about an intact, married couple losing the ability to decide together, as parents of their children, whether to limit or restrict grandparent visitation. That is a right that all parents have, and we believe it is a right that should not be challengeable unless there is a viable concern for the safety or well being of their children."

Chris Worden, a family law attorney and member of the Family Law Section's executive committee, also had testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the bill could have a negative impact on intact families and children. "So many family law attorneys oppose this legislation because they've seen how destructive parenting time litigation is for children and parental relationships. It can be stressful and financially devastating," he said.

Members of the Family Law Section had received a number of e-mail updates about this bill and Senate Bill 178, which dealt with custody issues. Members also had a chance to share their comments on an online survey.

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