Grandparents visitation bill clears the Alabama House

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The Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday passed HB334 from Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia), which would provide the criteria by which grandparents may petition for visitation with their grandchildren. Jones noted that Alabama is one of only a handful of states that don’t already have such a law on the books.

The bill faced difficulties last year after it was ruled unconstitutional and the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year not to take up the bill seemed to stop it in its tracks. But significant work has been done since then by the Alabama Law Institute and others to ensure that the bill can withstand scrutiny.

The bill went before committee in early March and drew the support of a wide array of Alabama parents and grandparents, though just as many showed up to oppose the measure.

In today’s vote, which garnered an affirmative from 97 Representatives, only Rep. Juandalynn Givan (D-Birmingham) rose to voice concern over the legislation. Givan noted that she had opposed the legislation previously and wanted to ensure that the bill would not hamper Alabama parents from making decisions regarding the welfare of their children.

Jones noted that changes were made to ensure the bill would be deemed constitutional, adding that the legislation was based off of a similar law passed in Arkansas.

“We’re not reinventing the wheel,” Jones said. “We’re trying to learn from other states.”

Jones noted that his bill creates a “narrow door” through which grandparents will have to pass to regain access to their grandchildren and said that Alabama’s law would be one of the most conservative in the country. He added that any decisions regarding reinstated visitation rights will start with the presumption that fit parents have made a decision in the best interest of their children – it will be up to grandparents to prove the opposite.

With its passage in the House, the bill will go before a Senate committee before making it to the full Senate in the coming weeks.

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