Do Grandparents Have Rights to Custody in Florida?
Being a grandparent can be one of the biggest joys in your life. However, when your grandchild is in danger or in need of your guidance it may be difficult to assert your rights in the Florida court system. Even when the circumstances allow for it, grandparents face tedious court processes to obtain visitation with a child. Your Orlando Child Custody Attorney will be able to discuss with you the avenues to which you may need to follow in order to gain custodial rights to your grandchild. We will work to ensure you and your grandchildren are protected.
Florida Statute 752.011 provides four avenues for a grandparent to have standing to pursue visitation rights with a child in a Florida court. If a child’s parents are “deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state, or whose one parent is deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state and whose other parent has been convicted of a felony or an offense of violence evincing behavior that poses a substantial threat of harm to the minor child’s health or welfare,” a grandparent may petition the court for visitation rights to that child. Within the petition, it must satisfy the prima facia elements displaying the “parental unfitness or significant harm to the child.” These 4 qualifications, simply provide a grandparent with grounds to petition the court for a visitation determination. Discuss the status of the child’s parents with your Orlando Child Custody Attorney in order to determine if you, as a grandparent have fulfilled the standing requirement.
Once petitioned the court must “find by clear and convincing evidence that a parent is unfit or that there is significant harm to the child, that visitation is in the best interest of the minor child, and that the visitation will not materially harm the parent-child relationship.” Therefore, the court must separately address, in their findings, the best interest of the child as well as the potential harm to the parent child relationship. When considering the best interest of the child the court considers: “the love, affection and other emotional ties existing between the minor child and grandparent…; the length and quality of the previous relationship”…whether it occurred prior to the death of the parent or vegetative state; “the reasons cited by the respondent parent in ending contact or visitation between the minor child and the grandparent; whether there has been significant and demonstrable mental or emotional harm to the minor child as a result of the disruption in the family unit, whether the child derived support and stability from the grandparent, and whether the continuation of such support and stability is likely to prevent further harm; the existence or threat to the minor child of mental injury…; the present mental, physical, and emotional health of the minor child and grandparent; the recommendations of the minor child’s guardian ad litem, if one is appointed; the result of any psychological evaluation of the minor child; the preference of the minor child…; written testamentary statement by the deceased parent regarding visitation with the grandparent…” This list is lengthy, and it is in your best interest to ensure you present the court with evidence of each factor pertinent to your case. This evidence will ensure the best interest of the child is seen in a complete and full picture by the court. Your Orlando Child Custody attorney will be able to gather and discuss with you evidence necessary to obtain to present before the court.
The second factor to this determination of visitation is the assessment of harm to the existing parent child relationship. Here, the court will look for evidence of: history of previous disputes between grandparent and parent over childrearing; “whether visitation would materially interfere with or compromise parental authority; whether visitation can be arranged in a manner that does not materially detract from the parent-child relationship; whether visitation is being sought for the primary purpose of continuing or establishing a relationship with the minor child with the intent that the child benefit from the relationship; whether the requested visitation would expose the minor child to conduct, moral standards, experiences, or other factors that are inconsistent with influences provided by the parent; the nature of the relationship between the child’s parent and the grandparent; the reasons cited by the parent in ending contact or visitation between the minor child and the grandparent which was previously allowed by the parent; and the psychological toll of visitation disputes on the minor child.” Once again, this list is not comprehensive but it is imperative to present to the court evidence of some of these factors in order to aid in their determination.
Florida holds the parent child relationship in the highest regard, therefore, any interference in these rights are difficult to infiltrate. Therefore, pursuing visitation rights to a grandchild can be a lengthy and difficult task. Working with an accomplished and knowledgeable Orlando Child Custody Attorney who is familiar with Florida Grandparent Laws will set you on the best path to bring your grandchildren back into your life on a consistent basis.Speaking to an attorney at our Orlando office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at 407-512-0887 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today