Of course you expect to continue to see your grandkids regularly, but what happens if one parent tries to deny you visitation?

In many situations, grandparents in Florida aren’t guaranteed visitation rights. However, they may have a claim to visitation and custody of their grandchildren in specific circumstances. Here’s what you need to know about grandparent rights in Florida.

What Rights Do Grandparents Have in Florida?

Florida law places more emphasis on the child-parent relationship when it comes to visitation and custody, so there are fewer options for extended family, including grandparents. It’s important to understand the difference between the options grandparents may pursue when it comes to seeing their grandkids.

Special Circumstances to Petition for Visitation

Parents in Florida have the right to decide who sees their children. Unfortunately, this can mean not allowing grandparents to see their grandkids in most cases. However, Florida law recognizes the importance of grandparent-grandchild relationships and will grant grandparents visitation rights under certain conditions. Under Florida Statute § 752.011, grandparents can seek visitation rights in cases where the child’s parents are:

  • deceased or missing
  • in a persistent vegetative state
  • convicted of a violent felony
  • unfit by legal standards

Motion for Temporary Custody

Extended family members, including grandparents, can be awarded temporary custody of a child in Florida if they have consent from the child’s parents or if the court determines that the parents are unfit to provide for the kids. Even if the parent objects, temporary custody can be granted to a family member if there is substantial evidence that the parent has abused, abandoned, or neglected the grandchild.

Even if you have permission of your child’s permission to file for temporary custody of your grandchild, you should work with a family law attorney before taking any formal steps. Your lawyer can handle the paperwork on your behalf and make sure everything is in order. If you suspect your grandchild has been abused or neglected, you can work with your attorney to report it to the appropriate authorities and file an emergency motion for custody.

Legal Options for Grandparents Seeking Visitation and Custody

Grandparents seeking visitation rights in Florida can file a petition for visitation alleging the child’s parents are unfit. After the petition is filed, the court will hold a preliminary hearing where you’ll present evidence showing why you are seeking visitation. The court will then determine whether your petition is proven and either grant or deny you visitation.

However, it is important to note that the legal parents’ fundamental constitutional rights to parent as they see fit trump the grandparents’ rights, absent the extenuating circumstances mentioned above.

Going to Court May Not Always Be Necessary

Grandparents may not have to go to court to get the visitation rights they seek. Many disputes can be resolved through mediation.

Mediation typically does not occur in a courtroom. Instead, both parties and their attorneys will meet to discuss the issue and try to negotiate an agreement without going before a judge. This is a less formal process than a court hearing, and less stressful for all involved. In addition, mediation is often more efficient, focused on finding a mutually agreeable solution, and affordable than paying court fees.

You should work with a family law attorney if you think your dispute could be resolved through mediation. A lawyer with experience with grandparent right cases like yours can be a strong advocate to ensure you get the quality time you seek with your grandkids.

Factors the Court Considers

If you are unable to reach a visitation agreement with your grandchild’s parents through mediation, you can petition the court. As with any family law matter involving children, Florida courts will make decisions in grandparent right cases with regard to the best interest of the kids. To do so, the court will consider factors such as:

  • The relationship between the child and grandparents (i.e., how much time they spend together, the quality of the relationship, etc.
  • The reason why the child’s parent denied the grandparent contact or visitation

The parental fitness of the petitioning grandparents will also be evaluated on factors such as:

  • Their ability to care for the child and fulfill their daily needs
  • Their mental and physical health
  • The potential effects of moving the child (for example, the social changes they might experience if they have to move schools or if they have special medical needs)

In addition, the court may consider the child’s wishes. The court will still decide based on what it sees as the child’s best interest, but their wishes can be considered.

Questions about Grandparent Rights? Call a Florida Family Lawyer

You deserve quality time with your grandkids, but grandparent rights in Florida can be confusing and emotionally challenging to navigate. That’s why it’s best for grandparents seeking visitation or custody rights to work with an experienced family law attorney. Attorney Michael Fayard knows the legal process and can guide you through it while prioritizing the wellbeing and best interests of your grandkids.

Call 941-265-2733 today or contact us to schedule an initial consultation.