Connecticut Legislation Concerning Third Party Visitation

In what appears to be an effort to clarify, and perhaps simplify, the law regarding visitation rights of grandparents and other third parties, the Connecticut legislature has enacted Public Act No. 12-137, which became effective October 1, 2012.  Essentially codifying the standards set forth in Roth v. Weston, 259 Conn. 202 (2002), the Connecticut legislature has revised and supplemented C.G.S. § 46b-59.  First, the new legislation requires that a third party applicant allege in good faith that a parent-like relationship exists between the person and the minor child, and that denial of visitation would cause real and significant harm.  “Real and significant harm” means that the child is neglected or uncared for, as defined in C.G.S. § 46b-120.  Second, the Act requires that the applicant prove the allegations by clear and convincing evidence.

Adding to the Connecticut’s Supreme Court’s ruling in Roth, the legislature added specific factors a court may consider in determining whether a parent-like relationship exists.  A court may consider, 1) the existence and length of the relationship between the person and the minor child prior to the submission of a visitation petition; 2) the length of time that the relationship between the person and the minor child has been disrupted; 3) the specific parent-like activities of the person seeking visitation toward the minor child; 4) any evidence that the person seeking visitation has unreasonably undermined the authority and discretion of the custodial parent; 5) the significant absence of a parent from the life of a minor child; 6) the death of one of the child’s parents; 7) the physical separation of the parents of the minor child; 8 ) the fitness of the person seeking visitation; and 9) the fitness of the custodial parent.  Additionally, when determining whether a parent-like relationship exists between a grandparent and a minor child, a court may consider the history of regular contact and proof of a close and substantial relationship between the grandparent and the minor child.

The new Act also provides that if a court grants visitation rights to a third party, it must set forth certain details, including a visitation schedule (e.g., the days, times and location of the visitation), whether overnight visitation will be allowed, and any other conditions the court determines are in the best interest of the child.  In determining the terms and conditions of visitation, the court may consider the effect the visitation will have on the relationship between the parent and the minor child, and the effect on the child of any domestic violence that has occurred between or among parents, grandparents or other third parties seeking visitation.  Notably, the legislature also added a provision providing that visitation rights with a third party shall not be grounds for preventing the relocation of the custodial parent.

By: Michael D. DeMeola, Esq.

Although Public Act No. 12-137 did not necessarily change the law regarding third party visitation in Connecticut, the new legislation certainly provides additional clarification and direction in this area of law for both litigants and attorneys.  Should you have any questions regarding custody matters, please feel free to contact Attorney Joseph Maya He can be reached in the firm’s Westport office at (203) 221-3100 or by e-mail at JMaya@mayalaw.com.
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