[r63] Messmer: Grandparent Visitation Rights Closer to Passage

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Tuesday, January 26, 2010

STATEHOUSE - Rep. Mark Messmer (R-Jasper) wants judges to start taking grandparents into consideration when doling out visitation rights-as soon as possible.

House Bill (HB) 1055, co-authored by Rep. Messmer, would improve visitation rights for grandparents and great-grandparents in cases of estrangement. Rep. Messmer's amendment, which makes HB1055 effective immediately upon passage, passed the Indiana House today by voice vote.

"In some cases, grandparents who have brought up a grandchild have been cut off from that child because of a trivial argument with the child's parent," said Rep. Messmer. "They then spend their days scouring the community paper for any news about them. They have no legal standing in court and no rights to a child, and HB1055 will change that," said Rep. Messmer.

"If a grandparent or great-grandparent is a good influence on the grandchild, they should be able to ask the court for the right to visit that child, regardless of whether they are on good terms with one or both parents."

The measure does nothing to usurp parental rights, but instead instructs courts on how to determine what would be in the best interests of the child. Factors such as the age and gender of the child and the mental and physical health of the relatives involved must all be taken into consideration, and the primary consideration will still be parents' rights and wishes.

Several nearby states, including Kentucky and Mississippi, already give grandparents a chance to petition the court in the case of estrangement. In addition, Indiana currently allows grandparents the right to ask for visitation privileges in cases where parents have died, divorced, or were not married to begin with. This law would also allow them to do so even if the parents' marriage is intact.

Track the progress of HB1055 at www.in.gov/legislative. To reach Rep. Messmer's Statehouse office, please call 1-800-382-9841 or send an email to h63@in.gov.