Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights in Florida?
Up until a few years ago, it was almost impossible for grandparents to obtain visitation of their grandchildren if the child’s parents were divorced. In 2015, however, the Florida Legislature passed a law that specifically provides for grandparent visitation in certain situations. Unfortunately, despite the enactment of these changes, it is still an uphill battle for grandparents to obtain visitation rights, so if you are seeking visitation with your grandchildren and are being denied by the courts or the child’s parents, it is important to speak with a child visitation attorney who is well-versed in state law and can explain your legal options.
As a result of the passage of Fla. Stat. 752.011, grandparents do have a right to visitation with their grandchildren, but only in limited circumstances, namely if both of the child’s parents are deceased, in a persistent vegetative state, or missing.
If one of these conditions is fulfilled, the court will hold a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is evidence of significant harm to the child or parental unfitness. If the child’s grandparents satisfy this burden, the case will go to mediation. Only after it has been established that the case cannot be resolved during mediation, will a final hearing on the matter be held. Even if all of these conditions are met, courts will still only grant visitation if the grandparent can prove that:
- There is a threat of significant harm to the child or a parent is unfit;
- Visitation would be in the best interest of the child; and
- Allowing visitation would not substantially harm the parent-child relationship.
When assessing whether visitation would be in a child’s best interests, courts are instructed to consider the totality of the circumstances by addressing certain factors, including:
- The love, emotional ties, and affection existing between the minor child and the grandparent;
- The length and quality of the previous relationship between the grandparent and the child;
- Whether the grandparent established ongoing personal contact with the minor child before his or her parent was missing or deceased;
- The reasons given by the child’s parent for ending contact between the child and the grandparent; and
- Whether the child has sustained mental or emotional harm as a result of the disruption to the family unit and whether the child will derive support from the grandparent.
Grandparents seeking visitation of a grandchild in Florida can only file a petition with a court once every two years. Furthermore, even if visitation is granted, it can be terminated upon a demonstration of a substantial change in circumstances.
Consult with a Florida Family Law Attorney
If you are a grandparent and have questions about visitation rights, please call experienced and compassionate Fort Lauderdale child visitation lawyer Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. at 954-945-7591 for an explanation of your rights and options.