Action Needed for Parental Rights in New York

We need your help today to encourage the New York legislature to take a positive step for parental rights.

A7821, authored by Rep. Woerner (D- Round Lake) and the matching S6402 authored by Sen. Marchione (R- 43rd), constitute a rare and exciting opportunity to make gains for parental rights in New York.

These bills would make changes to New York’s grandparent visitation statute to ensure the presumption that parents make decisions in the best interests of their children, to limit the instances when grandparents or other third parties have standing to sue for visitation, and to provide for courts to require those who file suit under false pretenses to pay the court costs.

The legal presumption in favor of fit parents is in keeping with U.S. Supreme Court precedent from such cases as Parham v. J.R., 442 U.S. 584 (1979), at 602: “The law’s concept of the family…historically…has recognized that natural bonds of affection lead parents to act in the best interests of their children.” This presumption is also in keeping with the overall aims of, including our efforts to establish the federal Parental Rights Amendment.

What’s more, making your voice heard on this issue is a very simple matter involving a few clicks and a couple minutes of your time.

Here’s all you need to do to stand up for parental rights:

1. Visit the Senate bill page for S6402 here:

2. Find the blue “poll” box on the right side that asks, “Do you support this legislation?”

3. Click “Aye” and complete the brief survey. They’ll ask for your name, email, and home address to make sure your response gets to your lawmakers.

4. Then do the same for the Assembly bill page, also on the Senate site here:

5. Please pass this on to other parents you know!

Fundamental parental rights start with what’s called a “rebuttable presumption” that parents act in the best interest of their child. A “rebuttable presumption” is a legal starting point; if the state cannot bring evidence to prove the notion false, the court must rule in favor of the parent. The concept of “innocent until proven guilty” is another rebuttable presumption. The person charged with a crime is innocent and the state must prove guilt; the defendant does not have to start “behind the 8 ball” and prove his innocence.

The first substantive edit A7821 would make is to put this presumption clearly into the grandparent visitation law.

The second edit removes an earlier presumption that if a spouse dies, his or her parents should necessarily have standing to sue for visitation. Such a presumption assumes the widow(er)’s parents and the remaining spouse cannot get along, or that grandparents will only sue in cases where a grieving spouse has cut them off without any valid reason. This is contrary to the presumption that this grieving parent, like any parent, is making decisions in the child’s best interest.

The edit still allows grandparents to sue for visitation in those circumstances where the remaining spouse is cutting off a thriving relationship to the detriment of the child. But it does not assume every grandparent who loses a child needs the court to intervene before they can visit with their grandchildren.

The third edit provides that those who file suit under this provision may be required to pay the court costs if their suit is shown to be frivolous.

At least one family in New York today has been brought nearly to ruin through court costs in the effort to keep charge of their own children. Former in-laws, who know they have no case, have nonetheless brought the widowed spouse to court numerous times, knowing that sooner or later the family will not be able to afford to fight them off.

This third edit will prevent this kind of “war of attrition” by letting the court recognize that scenario and order the grandparents to pay all the court costs. This preserves in a very practical sense the ability of parents to defend their families long-term.

It should be noted that none of these edits will prevent good grandparents with a valid concern from still pursuing visitation under New York’s grandparent visitation law. But the changes will strengthen the position of good parents in cases where such protection is needed.

Thank you for taking a moment right now to make your voice heard for parents and children in the Empire State.


Michael Ramey
Michael Ramey
Director of Communications & Research


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