The Non-Parental Child Custody and Visitation Act drafting committee met for a fifth time on March 24-25, 2017, in Washington, DC. This was our second drafting meeting since the first reading last summer at the ULC Annual Meeting in Stowe, Vermont. The committee continues to focus on concerns raised on the floor, and has decided to: 1) delete the concept of de facto parenting, and 2) limit the act to suits filed by non-parents who have either acted as “consistent caretakers” or have had “substantial contact with the child and denial of contact would present a detriment” to the child. One of the committee’s primary challenges has been to provide a structure that would allow non-parents who have not had actual care, custody and control of a child to seek court-ordered access without violating Troxel. We continue to make progress on these issues, and look forward to further comment from the floor this summer in San Diego.
Debra Lehrmann, Chair
Drafting Committee on Non-Parental Child Custody and Visitation Act
The Drafting Committee for the Non-Parental Child Custody and Visitation Act has had two drafting meetings, the most recent in November 2015. The draft act is scheduled for its first reading at the July 2016 Annual Meeting. The act sets procedures and standards for non-parents to obtain custody and visitation of children. Non-parents include partners of a parent who agree to raise a child with the parent, de facto parents, stepparents, grandparents, siblings, and others with an exceptionally close relationship with the child. The act does not govern access to children who are the subject of abuse, neglect, or dependency proceedings, such as children in foster care.
The act balances the interests of the child, parents, and non-parents and is designed to be consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Troxel v. Granville (2000). Troxel struck down Washington State’s grandparent visitation statute, as applied, holding the trial court did not give sufficient deference to the decision of a fit parent to decide the amount of contact the children would have with the grandparents.
Among the provisions in the current draft of the act: a presumption that parental decisions regarding custody and visitation are correct; a clear and convincing evidence burden of proof on non-parents seeking access to children; and a requirement that a non-parent show a detriment to the child if the relief requested is not granted. The act lists factors the court must consider and contains added protections for victims of domestic violence. De facto parents and persons who agreed to raise a child with the parent can be ordered to pay child support. Other persons who obtain visitation can be ordered, at the court’s discretion, to pay the costs of facilitating visitation.