When a divorce takes place, we picture the problems that the immediate family faces. The separation of mom and dad and the child or children are the primary focus of the problem. We sometimes forget that the extended family can face heartbreak and distress just as much as the immediate family during a divorce. Grandparents specifically may feel disconnected and rejected from major events or decisions regarding their grandchildren. It’s important to understand what kind of rights grandparents can exercise to see their grandchildren after a separation. What are the terms of grandparent visitation rights in Florida? What can they do to make sure they can still form a relationship with their grandchildren? What are their limitations?

 

Current Laws on Grandparent Visitation Rights in Florida

Florida is a popular location to spend your golden years. More people retire in Florida than any other state. It’s a bit ironic that Florida has one of the highest numbers of residents that are grandparents, yet some of the toughest laws on visitation. Every family faces similar but unique challenges when it comes to divorce. There are a lot of different circumstances that come into play when attempting to gain grandparent visitation rights in Florida. Overall, Florida draws some very strict lines that don’t offer much flexibility. If the parents are both communicating and decide to allow grandparent visitations on their own terms, it doesn’t pose any problem. However, it does pose a problem when one parent prohibits a visitation after a divorce. If a parent decides that they don’t want their child to see the grandparents, there’s not much they can do about it.

 

A law that became effective on July 1, 2015, states that grandparents can’t request visitation rights unless

 

  • Both parents are deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state

OR

  • One parent is deceased, missing, or in a vegetative state AND
  • The other parent has been convicted of a felony or an offense of violence evincing behavior that poses a substantial threat of harm to the minor child’s health or welfare

 

This basically means that as long as one parent is around and they’re not a violent criminal, grandparents don’t have a lot they can do to gain visitation rights.

 

If Your Family Meets These Criteria

If you believe that your family meets the conditions mentioned above and you have the grounds to file for grandparent visitation rights in Florida, there is a procedure set in place. First and foremost, there needs to be a hearing in which evidence is presented that proves the child or children are in a position where the primary parent is unfit. If this can be proved and a judge confirms that the parent is unfit, the child may be assigned to a guardian ad litem temporarily while the case goes into mediation. Once it is proven that the parent is unfit or harmful to the child, the grandparents will then have to present their position. Even when the criteria mentioned above are met, the judge still needs to know that the grandparents can provide a safe and healthy environment. The following conditions need to be met when considering grandparent visitation rights in Florida:

 

  • A parent is unfit or there is significant harm to the child
  • Visitation is in the best interest of the minor child AND
  • The visitation will not substantially harm the parent-child relationship

 

The Issue of Privacy

It’s normal to wonder why legislation like this is so strict and what the reasoning is for these regulations on grandparent visitation rights in Florida. A lot of support for these strict rules on rights come from privacy. In 1980, there was an amendment added to Florida’s constitution that focused on privacy. It reads, “Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from government intrusion into his private life except as otherwise provided herein.” In a famous case that was presented in 1996, Beagle vs. Beagle, the state denied grandparent visitation rights due to the inherent privacy laws. Basically, they cannot force a parent to allow a grandparent visitation mainly to protect the privacy of the parent.

 

What to Do If You Want Grandparent Visitation Rights in Florida

If you’ve read every word of this article, you might feel a bit discouraged about gaining rights to see your grandchildren. Thankfully, there are family law experts out there that know how to interpret Florida family law to present the best possible scenario for the children. If you strongly believe that it is your grandchildren’s best interest to spend a significant amount of time in your care, it’s important to call a family law attorney. These professionals can provide you with all of the information and support your family needs to handle your case properly. Contact a child custody law expert today for a consultation.

By: Tina Lewert

Attorney Tina L. Lewert is an experienced Florida Board Certified Marital and Family Law Specialist who works with clients to resolve family law issues including child custody, visitation, and parenting issues, and child support, alimony, and marital agreements. Ms. Lewert earned her undergraduate degree at Florida Atlantic University and her J.D. from the Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center in Fort Lauderdale.