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Understanding Grandparents’ Rights to Visitation

A dissolution of marriage puts a strain not only on the immediate family being affected, but the extended family as well. This includes grandparents (and step-grandparents) who are distraught over the potential decrease in time they are allowed to spend with their grandchildren. Unfortunately, Florida law is restrictive compared to other states when it comes to grandparents’ rights to visitation. 

Do Grandparents have Presumed Visitation Rights in Florida?

The short answer is no. Florida last updated its statutes concerning visitation rights for grandparents in July 2015. The existing law dictates that grandparents have no automatic rights to visitation in divorce cases. If both parents agree on a specific scope of visitation, however, then grandparents may visit their grandchildren. 

What Situations Allow Grandparents to Petition for Visitation?

Section 752.011, which was passed in 2015, lays out the conditions that must be met for grandparents to be able to petition for visitation. If both “parents are deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state,” then a formal motion may be initiated by the child’s grandparents for visitation rights.”  If the above criteria applies to one parent and the other has been convicted of a violent felony or other crime that means he or she poses a threat to the child’s “health or welfare,” then the grandparents may also petition. 

A series of state court decisions have established a high standard of privacy to parents when it comes to visitation rights of extended family members. These decisions have installed a non-interventionist standard by the state in allowing grandparents to visit grandchildren. Circumstances that allow grandparents to petition for visitation require a fairly high bar to be met for grandparents to win the petition. 

As with all cases involving custody and visitation of children involved in divorce, Florida will rule based on the best interests of the child. The courts are more likely to rule in favor of petitioning grandparents if the child in question has a documented relationship with his or her grandparents. Even if the grandparents meet these standards, there is still an uphill battle in court to secure visitation rights. 

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Visitation rights for grandparents is a delicate and tricky subject in Florida. Existing law is heavily tilted toward parents and their rights to dictate who receives contact with their children. Only in narrow circumstances may grandparents petition to secure visitation rights with their grandchildren. Still, if the thought of ceasing contact with your grandchildren has you distressed, Vasquez de Lara Law Group wants to help by providing compassionate and experienced legal guidance. Please get in touch with us today to get started with a consultation.