AB 203

TO: Assemblypersons Livermore, Ellison, Hickey, Hambrick, Aizley, Diaz, Duncan, Fiore, Grady, Hansen, Hardy, Kirner, Martin, Munford, Neal, Oscarson, Spiegel, Stewart, Swank, Wheeler, Woodbury

CC: Assembly Judiciary Committee; Chair Frierson, Vice-Chair Ohrenschall, Members Carillo, Cohen, Diaz, Dondero Loop, Martin, Spiegel, Duncan, Fiore, Hansen, Wheeler

Sent via email and fax

RE: AB 203; Revises provisions governing the granting of the right to visit a child to grandparents and great-grandparents of the child. (BDR 11-750)

Dear Sponsors and Co-Sponsors of AB 203,

By way of introduction, Nevada Homeschool Network (NHN) advocates for Nevada families who have chosen to direct the education of their children. However, today we are writing regarding a matter of importance to all Nevada parents and their children.

AB 203 would modify state law to permit grandparents or great-grandparents to sue for visitation of a child against the parents’ wishes. This bill will cause intact families, including perfectly fit parents, to face potential court challenges to their parenting decisions whenever they limit or restrict their child’s visitation from grandparents or great-grandparents. Under current law these relatives can only seek visitation when the parents of the child consent, or via the court system when the marriage is no longer intact. Further, the bill as proposed would force parents to defend their parental rights if they simply deny visitation to a grandparent. We believe that where families are intact, they should not have to defend their decisions regarding who will have access to their children.

Ideally, families get along; parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents work together to raise well-adjusted kids. But that is not always the case. Oftentimes grandparents would like nothing better than to see the family split apart to get their child and grandchildren “back”. Regardless of how healthy these relationships are, it falls to fit and loving parents to make decisions regarding the care, custody, and control of the child – including decisions regarding who has contact with that child.

With this in mind, we would like to direct you to the 74th Session of the Nevada Legislature (2007) specifically, SB 204 . During that Legislative session, the exact same language contained in AB 203 was proposed (that is the last time the issue was raised. It was also raised in 2005 and 2000). In a review of the testimony for and against SB 204 in 2007, we found that judges, lawyers and civic groups overwhelmingly opposed SB 204, primarily because of the unconstitutionality of the bill. We believe that current Assemblymen/women may not be aware of the history of this legislation and as such we seek to advise you on the fate of the proposed language in 2007.

Legislative Background: SB 204 was initially heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 15, 2007 (pages 14-16) and continued on March 20, 2007 (pages 2-9). There was a proposal to amend the bill during a Senate Judiciary Committee Work Session on April 4, 2007(pages 10-11) and the bill was continued to the next work session. At the committee work session on April 10, 2007 (pages 6-7) the sponsoring Senator withdrew the proposed amendment, requested a “Do pass” on the bill as originally proposed, no second on the motion was received and the bill died in committee.

We request that you review the testimony presented on SB 204 in 2007, specifically as it relates to the constitutionality of the bill. Again, please note that the language in this year’s bill, AB 203, is exactly the same as in 2007. We believe that nothing has changed as to the constitutional, financial, and court case load issues presented in testimony five years ago. We therefore oppose AB 204 on these grounds:

AB 203 is unconstitutional based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Troxel v. Granville, 539 U.S. 57 (2000). Nothing has changed since that ruling overturned a Washington state law like this proposed bill. Intact families have a fundamental right to deny visitation with grandparents, and any law to the contrary would likely be struck down by the Nevada Supreme Court. Current law already correctly interprets this Supreme Court case.
AB 203 would create a financial burden on intact families having to defend their private family decisions regarding who has contact with their children. Some families simply could not afford to defend themselves, grandparents would often have an unfair financial advantage to hire an attorney, some bad decisions can be handed down, and children will be harmed as a result.
AB 203 would significantly increase the caseload burden on an already overburdened District Court, increasing costs and delays. Many more cases could also be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter. If we can answer any questions you may have please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,

NHN Officers

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