Connecticut statutes about child visitation rights have been amended so that that visitation can be granted to "any person"; however, the standards for "any person" receiving visitation rights in Connecticut have been set quite high.
Only those who have filled the parental role with a child have the right to petition for visitation, and they must contend that denying them access would cause "real and significant harm" to the child.
This "harm standard" is a higher standard than the required consideration of the best interests of the child. In addition, the evidence offered must be "clear and convincing," which is also a higher standard than is often required in non-criminal cases.
Factors to Be Considered
The law lists factors for determining whether a parent-like relationship has existed. The court is to consider:
- The existence and length of the relationship between the petitioner and the minor child;
- How long said relationship has been disrupted;
- The specific activities of the petitioner that were parent-like;
- Any evidence that the petitioner has "unreasonably undermined" parental authority;
- The absence of a parent from the child's life;
- The death of one of the child's parents;
- The physical separation of the parents of the child;
- Whether the person seeking visitation is a fitting person; and
- Whether the custodial parent is fit.
In addition, when the petitioner is a grandparent, the court is directed to consider whether there is a history of regular grandparent-grandchild contact and whether there is proof that the relationship was "close and substantial."
A Relevant Court Case
The case of Roth v. Weston illustrates the high standard that Connecticut grandparents must meet.
In this 2002 case, a widowed father denied a request for visitation from the maternal grandmother and a maternal aunt. The lower court found for the grandmother and aunt, but the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed, saying that the relatives had failed to show significant harm if visitation were denied.
The court furthermore said that in order to justify the state's intrusion into the realm of parental authority, the child would have to be "neglected, uncared-for or dependent" -- the same standard, in short, as could compel the state to assume custody of a child. The court openly stated that this decision was an attempt to "salvage" the state's statutes and keep them constitutional following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Troxel v. Granville, which greatly strengthened parental rights.
Court Cases After Roth v. Weston
The Roth standard has been cited repeatedly by Connecticut courts to support denying grandparents contact with their grandchildren. These cases include the following:
- Martocchio v. Savoir (2014). In a case which the court described as a "complicated morass," the Connecticut Court of Appeals found fault with a lower court's decision. The lower court had not adhered to the Roth standard. The case was sent back to the lower court.
- Fennelly v. Norton (2007). The court ruled that the grandparents had not proven that they had a parent-like relationship with their grandchildren. The court stated that the "mere act of checking a box on the application for visitation form" is not sufficient to meet the Roth standard.
- Denardo v. Bergamo (2005). The Roth standard was applied retroactively in this case. The grandparents had been granted visitation before the 2002 case. When the parents took the grandparents to court for a modification of their visitation rights, the Connecticut Supreme Court used the Roth Standard to terminate the grandparents' visitation.
- Clements v. Jones (2002). The court found that the grandmother, in this case, had not met the "high evidentiary standard" required by Roth. The court found that the grandmother had not shown a parent-like relationship with the child nor had proven that harm would result from a lack of visitation.
See also Connecticut statutes. (Search for Section 46b-59.) The Connecticut Judicial Branch also maintains a resource page about grandparents' rights.