Filing a Petition for Grandparent Visitation
In 2015, Florida lawmakers made significant changes to the state law that addressed grandparent visitation. Prior to the enactment of these changes, a grandparent could only petition the court for visitation rights if that child’s parents’ marriage had been dissolved, one of the parents had deserted the child, or the child’s parents were never married. This made it difficult, if not impossible, for many grandparents to remain in close contact with their grandchildren following the parents’ separation. To find out more about how the recent amendments may have changed your own rights to visitation, please contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale child visitation rights lawyer today.
Under current law, grandparents can ask the court for visitation of a grandchild if both of the child’s parents are deceased or missing, or:
- One parent is deceased, missing, or in a vegetative state; and
- The child’s other parent has been convicted of a felony offense or a violent crime demonstrating a serious threat of harm to the child’s welfare or health.
This essentially means that if at least one of the child’s parents is present in his or her life and is not a violent felon, the child’s grandparents will most likely not have the right to ask the court for visitation.
Petitioning the Court
If a grandparent fulfills this criteria, then the court will hold a preliminary hearing, at which point, it will decide whether enough evidence of parental unfitness or potential harm to the child exists. Grandparents who fail to meet this burden could not only end up being denied visitation, but could also be required to pay the parents’ attorney’s fees. If, on the other hand, the petitioner is able to meet this initial burden, the court will require the parties to attempt to resolve their differences in mediation. If a case cannot be resolved at this point, then the court will hold a final hearing on the issue and will only grant visitation if:
- One of the child’s parents is unfit or significant harm to the child exists;
- Visitation would be in the child’s best interests; and
- Granting visitation would not substantially harm the relationship between the child and his or her parents.
When determining whether visitation would be in a child’s best interests, courts assess a number of factors, including:
- The length and quality of the relationship between the child and the grandparent;
- The extent to which the grandparent was involved in providing care to the child;
- Whether the grandparent has had ongoing personal contact with the child;
- The reason cited by the respondent parent for ending contact with the grandparent; and
- Whether there has been mental or emotional harm to the child as a result of the deprivation of the grandparent’s support and stability.
Petitions requesting visitation can only be filed once every two years and even if granted, visitation can be terminated upon a substantial change in circumstances.
Schedule a Free Consultation Today
For help with your own visitation-related questions or concerns, please contact dedicated Fort Lauderdale visitation rights and time sharing attorney Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. at 954-945-7591 today.