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Advocate: Bill expanding grandparents' rights is worthwhile

BY JIM KILLACKEY Published: March 9, 2013
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A bill pending in the Legislature would enhance the lives of many younger Oklahomans by allowing them increased access to people who usually provide acceptance, stability, self-esteem, hope, knowledge, family history and — especially — unconditional love.

Grandparents.

House Bill 1520 by Rep. Justin Wood, R-Shawnee, would allow grandparents to request mediation from a district judge as a new method to seek “reasonable visitation rights” with their grandchild. The bill passed the House Judiciary committee by a 16-0 vote. However, in 2012 an identical measure never made it out of a Senate committee. This year, backers hope for a different result.

More than 79,000 Oklahoma children live in homes headed by their grandparents. Yet the moral, fit and caring grandparents who desire visitation rights — but not custody — face a far different reality. Often, when family problems occur, grandparents have difficulties maintaining a relationship with their grandchildren. Complications may arise from divorces, deaths, military deployments, arguments, violent behavior, jealousy, living arrangements, religious disputes or discrepancies in societal values between generations.

Grandparents may have briefly taken over the responsibility of raising the grandchildren, but one or both parents change their minds and want the children returned. When any of these situations occur, grandparents may be left out of the grandchildren's lives completely.

Mediation gives more room for relationship problems with grandchildren to be solved. A new boundary is needed to allow a continuing interaction between the generations. Grandparents often provide a stabilizing force for grandchildren who are living in less than ideal situations.

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