Grandparents push for change in law

by: Dave Wagner Updated:

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OLYMPIA, Wash. - In a place where politics is paramount, things got personal on the steps of the state Capitol in Olympia.

Grandparents, carrying photos of their grandchildren, are looking for court-ordered visitation in case of death or divorce.

"There's no reason we should be the last state in passing something like this." said Democratic State Representative Mia Gregerson of SeaTac.

With signatures today from state lawmakers, supporters of Initiative 1431 are trying a new approach to connect estranged grandparents with their grandchildren. "I haven't thought about anything else since this happened," said Lori Paine of Puyallap.

In December, KIRO 7 profiled Paine who has been gathering signatures for the initiative. On her wall, a portrait she painted of her granddaughter after a falling out with her daughter.  “It was a way to keep her with me.  I just, I said to myself, they’ll never be able to take her away from me completely, because I will always have her.  You know, she’s in my heart,” said Paine.

Sixteen years ago, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and other justices rejected state law writing, “Washington's breathtakingly broad statute effectively permits a court to disregard and overturn any decision by a fit custodial parent concerning visitation…”  Paine said, "When that law went away, then all the sudden there's no legal rights."

The group Grandparents Rights of Washington, or GROW, is looking for grandparents to have legal standing.  “When they go to the court, they’ve got to prove to the judge that, yes, we are unreasonably kept from our grandchildren,” said GROW founder Bob Rudolph.

Lori Paine and other Washington grandparents are holding out hope that their new initiative will lead to more time with the children they love. “There’s like this empty space in your life that you don’t even know you have and the grandchild fills that space,” said Paine.

It will be a challenge for supporters of Initiative 1431.  They have to gather 300,000 signatures by June 1.