Unsurprisingly, divorce doesn’t just affect you and your spouse; it affects those around you, including your extended family. If you and your spouse have minor children, this can extend to your children’s grandparents. You see, while some states have grandparents rights established for divorced households, the same cannot be said for the state of Florida. Divorce or the death of one parent can effectively end a grandparent’s right to see a child. Florida has some of the most restrictive laws in the country regarding grandparent visitation.
If you are a grandparent who is affected by divorce and are attempting to get visitation rights to see your grandchildren, you can petition the Florida court for visitation, but only in certain limited circumstances. It is highly recommended that you consult with an experienced Florida family law attorney when attempting to secure visitation privileges. If a family cannot resolve grandparent visitation disputes among themselves, then a grandparent may petition for visitation under certain conditions, such as:
- One parent is deceased, missing, or in a vegetative state, and the other parent has been convicted of an offense showing they are a potential threat to the child, or has been convicted of any other felony in the past.
- Both parents are deceased, missing, or in a vegetative state.
- A parent is only considered missing if their whereabouts have been unknown for at least 90 days and cannot be located after a thorough and diligent search.
As you can see, these requirements are very specific and strict, and that is due to the fact that in Florida, parents have the right to control who sees their child. The Florida courts believe that as a parent, you are granted privileges, and that includes deciding who is best to be around your child. So, this means that while not impossible, it is difficult to petition for visitation.
Additionally, a notice of the petition must be served on the child’s parents. If, after your petition is filed, the court finds some evidence that you should be allowed to have visitation of the grandchildren, then they must refer your case to family mediation. Family mediation brings in a neutral third party who will help both the parents and the grandparents come to a mutually agreeable solution. If that doesn’t work, the case moves to a hearing.
If the case moves to a hearing, then the Florida court will look at all evidence, and may award grandparent visitation if they find that either parent is unfit or if there is potential significant harm to the child, if your visitation is in the best interest of the child, and if that visitation will not materially harm the parent-child relationship. The Florida court will also look into what’s in the child’s best interests, and what their preference is. They will also be looking into why the parent(s) has decided you should not have contact with the child(ren), and any other factor the courts deem relevant.
Again, grandparent visitation is not impossible to get, but it can be difficult. It is highly recommended that you reach out to your local Florida family law attorney for a consultation and what your best options are.