The Oklahoma State Senate unanimously approved legislation Wednesday updating a state statute which protects visitation rights for grandparents.
House Bill 2469 is authored by State Senator Earl Garrison, D-Muskogee, and Rep. Wade Rousselot, D-Okay. The bill now goes to Gov. Brad Henry for his approval.
The measure provides that a grandparent may have visitation rights with a grandchild if the grandchild’s mother dies from complications related to the birth of a child.
HB 2469 also provides that a grandparent may have visitation rights with a grandchild when one of the grandchild’s parents has a felony conviction and been incarcerated in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and the grandparent had a preexisting relationship with the child before the parent’s incarceration.
Senator Garrison says the bill closes a legal loophole that could have denied visitation rights for some Oklahoma grandparents.
“I am strong proponent of grandparent’s rights,” Garrison said. “If there is an opportunity to keep grandparents involved and is in the best interest of a child’s life, then I think that is a worthwhile goal to pursue. This legislation is a positive step in the right direction for improving the rights of grandparents.”
Robin Hurley of Edmond is one grandparent who is praising the passage of this bill. Her daughter Veronika died 30 minutes before giving birth to her daughter Rylee. She was later denied visitation rights to her granddaughter.
Mrs. Hurley said she decided to pursue legislative action to try to help other families in her situation.
“I think the passage of this bill is awesome, not just for myself, but for other families who have been in this situation,” Mrs. Hurley said. “It’s not fair to the families to keep the grandparents out of a child’s life who has already suffered a tremendous loss.’
Rep. Rousselot concurred with Senator Garrison.
“In the 2007 legislative session, we passed a major piece of legislation enabling grandparents to have visitation with their grandchild,” Rousselot said. “Since that time, there have been some legal loopholes which have allowed visitation court cases to be overturned and not in favor of the grandparents. This legislative session, we have reviewed the issue and tried to plug some of those loopholes. We certainly always want to respect the rights of parents, but we also feel that grandparents who have a good relationship with their grandchild should also have visitation rights.”