Grandparents’ Visitation Rights in Florida

In the United States, parents have fundamental rights when it comes to their relationships with their children. The government is not permitted to interfere with this relationship unless that relationship could potentially harm or has already harmed the child(ren). At that point, the government has the burden to prove that the parent’s fundamental rights to the child should be terminated because it is in the best interest of the child. The legal relationship between child and parent is well-defined in our family law system. However, there are other relationships that are less legally-defined but are considered still just has relevant and essential to the child and his/her best interests, such as third-party relationships like those with grandparents, aunts, and uncles. If you or a loved one is looking to petition for visitation rights with a minor child, it is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney.

History of the Grandparental Rights in Florida

As of last year in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law the Grandparental Visitation Rights. This law seeks to establish a more defined legal relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren, and the extent of their visitation and custodial rights depending on the status of the parents. In the past, because of the fundamental nature of parental rights, courts and governments have been hesitant about interfering and undermining parents who decide to not allow their child to have a relationship with the grandparents. However, over the last couple of decades, the traditional definition of the nuclear family has shifted, and the extent to which grandparents and other third parties were involved in the raising of the child grew. More studies showed that grandparents’ involvement (and other supportive third parties) was having a positive influence on the children.

Petition Procedure for Grandparental Visitation Rights

According to Florida’s new law, grandparents may petition for visitation with a minor child where the parents are deceased, missing, or in a vegetative state, or where one of the parents is deceased, missing, or in a vegetative state, and the other parent has been convicted of a felony and/or a violent offense that may show that the minor child’s well-being is at risk for substantial harm. If the court finds from clear and convincing evidence that the parent is unfit or that the child is at considerable risk for substantial harm due to a parent’s past history, criminal record, or past abuse, the visitation by the grandparents with the child will be considered to be in the best interest of the child. Finally, it must be proven that the grandparental visitation will not cause harm to the child.

Factors to Determine Whether Grandparental Visitation is in the Best Interest of the Child

To determine whether the grandparental visitation is in the best interest of the child, the court will review the following elements:

  • The duration and extent of the relationship between the grandparents and the grandchild;
  • The mental and emotional stability of the child;
  • The mental and emotional condition of the grandparent;
  • The extent to which the grandparent provided love, care, emotional support, and/or financial support to the child;
  • The reasons cited why the parent did not want the child to have a relationship with the grandparent, if the grandparent was unable to maintain a consistent relationship with the child due to a parent’s decision; among other factors.

Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation if you are interested in petitioning for visitation rights with your minor grandchild.