Child Custody by Grandparents or Extended Family Members

Child Custody

One thing we hear all the time in our practice is that “Grandparents have no rights under Florida law.” There is a bit of truth to this statement, as Florida Law holds very high a parent’s right to privacy and to raise their children without interference. Previous attempts at granting Grandparent’s rights to visitation of grandchildren, such as Florida Statute section 752 – Grandparental Visitation Rights - have been declared unconstitutional.

However, there do exist some circumstances where Grandparents do have rights to visitation in Florida. One exception is cases where a Grandparent(s), child, and parent(s) moves to the Florida area, and another state has entered an order giving the Grandparent(s) rights. Florida does recognize other state’s orders on timesharing with grandparents. Ledoux-Nottingham v. Downs, 210 So. 3d 1217 (Fla. 2017).

The majority of Florida / Leon County residents, however, do not have the benefit of another state’s Court’s order granting grandparent visitation. So, if not falling under that specific category, what can grandparents in Florida and the Leon County area do to visit grandchildren?

For those grandparents (or “extended family members” – relatives within a third degree of blood or marriage to the parent ) that have been taking care of a grandchild at least 10 days of of the previous 30 days, and currently having physical custody of the child, Florida Chapter 751 provides avenues for family members to continue caring for the child and obtain a court order granting legal rights and obligations. Fla. Stat. 751.011; 751.01. Florida’s Chapter 751, or “Temporary or Concurrent Custody by Extended Family” is often used by relatives of minor children who are caring for the children while their parents are facing some sort of difficulty, hardship, or necessary absence from the child’s life. Often, when a parent is facing incarceration, substance abuse rehabilitation, or is deployed for active duty, a parent may turn over some of their rights to their parent/the child’s grandparent through agreement. In most cases, both parents consent to a “temporary custody” or “concurrent custody” order, and the grandparent or extended family member is authorized to care for the minor child and complete the following:

  1. Consent to all necessary and reasonable medical and dental care for the child, including nonemergency surgery and psychiatric care.
  2. Secure copies of the child’s records, held by third parties, that are necessary for the care of the child, including, but not limited to:
    1. Medical, dental, and psychiatric records.
    2. Birth certificates and other records.
    3. Educational records.
  3. Enroll the child in school and grant or withhold consent for a child to be tested or placed in special school programs, including exceptional education.
  4. Do all other things necessary for the care of the child.

Pursuant to these agreements, the parent may terminate the temporary custody at any time, so far as they have complied with the terms as agreed. Some parties choose to establish certain guidelines for the Parent to follow before the children are returned, so that a parent may ensure they have a safe, stable environment for the child to return to.

Parents and Grandparents or extended family members may also agree to a “concurrent custody” agreement. Concurrent custody agreements provide that the Grandparent and Parent both have rights to make decisions for a child, where the temporary custody orders typically award the majority of timesharing to the family member over the parent.

A Grandparent in the Leon County / Florida area may also seek temporary custody of a minor child over the written objection of a parent, but in doing so faces a high burden of showing clear and convincing evidence that the objecting parent is unfit, and has abused, neglected, or abandoned the child (as defined in Florida Chapter 39).

If you are a grandparent or extended family member of a child in the Florida / Leon County area with questions about custody of a minor child relative, call today to speak to one of our experienced and knowledge Florida attorneys. We also have offices located in Panama City, Orlando, Pensacola, Fort Walton, Panama City Beach, and Navarre, Florida.

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