LITTLE ROCK — A state senator said Tuesday he plans to file legislation next year to make it easier for grandparents to adopt or visit their grandchildren.

LITTLE ROCK — A state senator said Tuesday he plans to file legislation next year to make it easier for grandparents to adopt or visit their grandchildren.

Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, made the comment after hearing testimony from Saline County residents Dale and Tammy Bridges, who told the Joint Performance Review Committee that despite helping to raise their three grandchildren when they were small, they have not been allowed to see their grandchildren since December, even though they live just 4 miles away.

Dale Bridges said he and his wife have tried through the court system to secure the right to see their grandchildren, but the system has failed them. He said state law allows grandparents to petition for “reasonable” visitation rights.

“What is the definition of a reasonable amount of time? There isn’t one,” he said.

Bridges said the law should be changed to include a definition of a reasonable visitation. He said he believed one weekend a month would be reasonable, but grandparents at least should not have to go more than 90 days without seeing their grandchildren.

“Please consider helping us and all grandparents, and we hope and pray it doesn’t happen to anyone, including you all,” he said.

Stubblefield told the couple, “I have watched grandparents grieve over the same types of situations that we’re dealing with here, the injustices being done to grandparents and the preferences that’s given to drug dealers and the deadbeat dads. To be frank with you, I’m getting a little tired of it. And I will give you my word right now that I will run a piece of legislation this next session to change this.”

Joe Heard, a counselor and psychotherapist, recommended to the panel that terms in state law such as “best interest of the child,” “reasonable visitation” and “harm” be defined.

It ought to be less difficult for biological grandparents to continue their relationship with a grandchild when a biological parent dies or becomes unable to care for the child, Heard said. He also told the panel that when the fitness of grandparents to care for their grandchildren is questioned, a qualified mental-health professional should do an evaluation.

Heard also said that when grandparents are separated by a long distance from their grandchildren, they should be able to seek rights to visitation via technology.

Stubblefield, who has four grandchildren, told reporters after the hearing he did not know exactly what type of legislation he would file on the issue next year, but he said that “we’re going to make it easier for grandparents to adopt their children or at least see their grandchildren.”

He said grandparents may be more fit to care for children than the parents when, for example, the parents are involved with drugs.

“Drugs have changed the whole culture,” Stubblefield said.

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