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How one state has actually expanded the rights of grandparents

As we detailed on our blog before, grandparents in many jurisdictions often face an uphill battle when it comes to securing custody or even visitation rights with their grandchildren. Indeed, the problem has become so acute that lawmakers in some states are now considering -- and even passing -- legislation designed to recognize and empower the grandchild-grandparent bond.

For instance, consider a recently passed grandparents' rights law in the state of Oregon that may serve as an example for the rest of the nation.

For many years, the law in Oregon was written in such a way that if parental rights were terminated and the child became a ward of the state, this termination would also extend to the biological grandparents.  

As you might imagine, this scenario resulted in many grandparents losing access to their grandchildren through no fault of their own, a scenario that becomes all the more devastating when you consider that statistics from the Oregon Department of Human Services show that an average of 900 parents per year have had their parental rights terminated over the last three years alone.

House Bill 3014, sponsored by Rep. Wayne Krieger (R-Gold Beach) and signed into law by Governor Kate Brown earlier this month, will help rectify this situation, however, by doing the following:

  • Changing the legal definition of grandparent to include the language "regardless of whether the parental rights of the child's or ward's legal parent have been terminated."
  • Making grandparents eligible to receive notice of juvenile dependency hearings.
  • Authorizing grandparents to request contact, communication and, most significantly, visitation with their grandchildren while they are in the custody of DHS.

It will be interesting to see what effect legislation like this has on the national dialogue concerning grandparents' rights. In the meantime, if you are a grandparent who would like to learn more about your rights, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.

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