House votes to increase grandparent rights in custody cases

TOPEKA — The House of Representatives has given its final approval to a bill to give “substantial consideration” to grandparents of children who have been removed from their parents’ custody.

The bill follows on last year’s grandparents’ rights legislation that defined grandparents as “interested parties” in cases where children need protection from parental abuse or neglect. It has been a priority for the Silver Haired Legislature, which advises the Legislature on bills of interest to senior citizens.

The House voted 120-0 in favor of a compromise on Senate Bill 262 that was worked out in a House-Senate conference committee.

The final bill does not go as far toward grandparents’ rights as the House originally favored.

The original House legislation would have given grandparents “preference” as potential custodians of children removed from their parents’care.

The Senate passed a weaker version that would have required courts to give “consideration” to grandparents.

The conference committee settled on giving grandparents “substantial consideration.”

If a judge decides not to place a grandchild with grandparents, the reason for the decision would have to be recorded in the official case record.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, said he thinks the bill accomplished a “good and appropriate balance” between grandparents’ rights and the requirement that courts serve the best interest of the child.

Rep. Mike Kiegerl, R-Olathe, said family placements “are preferable placements to strangers, especially with young children.”

“I will vote for this bill, but I’m not crazy about it,” Kiegerl said.

The bill now goes to a final vote in the Senate.