Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights in Florida?
Whether grandparents have custodial or visitation rights has been a contentious issue over the years in the state of Florida; one laden with legal technicalities that can limit a grandparent's ability to visit or care for their own grandchild.
A divorce between two parents can affect not only a child of the marriage but the grandparents as well. Grandparents do not possess the innate right to visit grandchildren. So, should something affect the balance of the relationship, such as an untimely death of a parent, a grandparent must seek legal recourse for visitation rights.
It is difficult for grandparents to obtain visitation rights. For a grandparent to petition for court-ordered visitation, the parents must either be deceased, missing or in a persistent vegetative state. If only one parent is deceased, the other parent must have been convicted of a felony or of an offense of violence that potentially poses a quantitative threat to the child's health.
Usually, if a grandparent files for visitation rights when one parent is still alive; it is because the parent will not, for any discretionary reason, allow contact between the grandparent and grandchild.
Florida Statute § 752.011 states, once a child's parents have been deemed unfit to care and continue as guardians; the court may grant reasonable visitation rights to the grandparent. But three sets of criteria must be met:
- There must be apparent and clear evidence that the remaining parent is unfit or offers a significant chance of harm to the child;
- The visitation must be in the best interest of the child and the child's future;
- The approval of visitation rights will not materially harm the relationship between the parent and child.
When considering whether to grant a grandparent's visitation rights, a court will consider the best interests of the child standard. Florida law outlines the best interests of the child. Florida Statute § 752.011 consider the following factors:
- The existing nature of love and affection between the child and grandparent;
- The length and quality of the pre-existing relationship between child and grandparent, and the extent of which the grandparent provided support and care to the child;
- The reasons cited by the living parent as to why the contact was ended between grandparent and child;
- Whether there has been demonstrable mental or emotional harm to the child due to the result of disruption within the family unit;
- The mental, physical, and emotional health of the child and grandparent;
- The preference of the child if the child is of sufficient maturity;
- And any other considerations the court may deem necessary.
Grandparent visitation rights can be difficult to obtain in Florida. There are many factors that the court must review and consider before granting rights to a grandparent. Overall, the court does not want to place unnecessary strain and stress on the child needlessly. These cases likely handle a child that has already faced some roadblock, such as a parent who has died or is mortally ill. But, the court will ultimately do what it believes would be the best path under the circumstances of each and every case. Contact an experienced family law attorney to learn more.
Florida Statutes | 752.011 – Learn more about Florida Statutes at Online Sunshine, the official internet site of the Florida Legislature. Visit this webpage to read about grandparental visitation rights and the factors involved such as definitions or the mediation of visitation disputes.