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Home » Landmark Decision Reshapes Connecticut Third-Party Visitation Law

Landmark Decision Reshapes Connecticut Third-Party Visitation Law

May 7, 2024

In a landmark decision that alters over two decades of Connecticut law governing third-party visitation, Samuel V. Schoonmaker, IV, Of Counsel at Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC successfully represented a woman seeking visitation with her niece under General Statutes § 46b-59. 

The child had resided with her mother, grandmother, and our client for ten years, while her father lived in a different state and visited the child occasionally. Following the grandmother’s stroke in 2015, our client became the most involved adult in the child’s daily care. The father moved to Connecticut shortly after the deaths of the mother and grandmother in 2021 and began spending more time with the child. Two months later, he revoked our client’s privileges to pick the child up from school and required the girl to move in with him. 

After unsuccessfully attempting to arrange a visitation schedule, our client filed a legal action seeking third-party visitation. However, the trial court subsequently dismissed the petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, finding insufficient allegations of both a parent-like relationship and real and significant harm. Our client appealed, and the matter was transferred to the Connecticut Supreme Court. In a 7-0 decision, the justices found that the aunt was “entitled to an evidentiary hearing,” at which time she must prove by clear and convincing evidence that she has a parent-like relationship with the child and that denial of visitation would cause the child real and significant harm. The judgment was reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

As a result of this ruling, grandparents and others who’ve established a parent-like relationship with a child are now in a much better position to convince a court to order visitation. While a parent still has fundamental rights to control who can care for her/his own child, under compelling circumstances, a court can enter visitation orders that serve the interests of children and the nonparents who love them.

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