Grandparents Visitation Rights Attorney in Pensacola, Florida
In Florida, when two people decide to end the marriage, if the couple has children, things can become quite complicated. It doesn’t just affect the couple going through it. It also affects the children and the families of each spouse. If there are grandparents in the family, their rights may also come into play when the discussion of child custody arises. When a couple with children ends their marriage in Florida, the grandparents could wind up in a precarious position because of Florida law. With more than 30 years of experience, Crystal Collins Spencer, Attorney at Law, can represent you in a grandparents’ rights case as you fight for the right to see your grandchildren.
Grandparental Visitation Rights
According to Florida Title XLIII, Chapter 752, Grandparental Visitation Rights was signed into law on June 11, 2015 and went into effect on July 1, 2015. The law permits grandparents to petition for visitation of their grandchildren if the parents of the children fall under any of the following:
- Missing for more than 90 days
- Are deceased
- Are in a persistent vegetative state
- Have been convicted of a felony
- Have committed a crime of violence that poses a threat to the child
Petitioning for Visitation with a Minor Child
If you would like to petition for visitation with your minor grandchild, you will need to show in the petition that one of the above issues is present in the child’s relationship with their parent. If the court finds that you did not successfully prove one of the issues listed above, the petition will be dismissed, and the court might order you to pay the attorney and court fees for the respondent to the petition (the child’s parent).
Should the court rule that you successfully showed that the parent is unfit, or the child is in danger, the case will be referred to mediation and a guardian ad litem may be appointed. If mediation fails to resolve the issue of visitation, the court will schedule a final hearing.
The final hearing, which could issue grandparent visitation or deny it, will be conducted to make a determination. The court, after extensive examination, can only issue grandparent visitation if it finds that the ruling will be in the best interest of the child, that the parent is unfit, and that allowing visitation will not harm the relationship between the parent and the child. When the parental rights of the child are removed, the rights of the grandparent are not affected, unless the court deems that continuing the visitation would be against the best interests of the child.
How Does Florida Define the Best Interests of the Child?
Understanding the best interests of the child is an important part of obtaining visitation rights as a grandparent. Florida defines the best interests of the child as the following:
- Depending on the age of the child, his or her preference in the situation
- The length and quality of any pre-existing relationship between the child and the grandparents of the child
- The willingness of the grandparent to encourage a strong relationship between the child and the child’s parents
- The mental and physical health of the grandparents
- The mental and physical health of the child
The Relationship Between the Children and Grandparents
One of the most important factors the court must consider when determining whether or not a grandparent will be permitted visitation is the relationship between them and the child. If there was no relationship prior to the petition for visitation between the child and the grandparent, the court likely will not approve visitation.
On the other hand, if the grandparent has been heavily involved in the child’s life (transporting to and from school, attending sports events, attending school activities, watching the child after school, etc.) the court will need to strongly consider permitting visitation as this would be in the best interests of the child.
The pre-existing relationship, or lack thereof, even comes into play when considering visitation if the child’s parent has died or is in a vegetative state. It is possible that the court could determine the grandparent was not involved enough in the child’s life prior to either of these events occurring and award visitation to someone else.
When Visitation is Awarded to a Grandparent
If you are awarded visitation with your grandchild, the law protects your rights from being denied. For example, you cannot be denied the ability to visit with your grandchild, show them affection, or provide them with any signs of affection (cards, phone calls, letters, gifts, hugs, kisses, etc.).
Visitation, once granted, can be held at the home of the grandparent unless there is a reason that it should not. The law in Florida also requires the grandparent to pay the transportation fees of the grandchild if visitation has been approved (train, plane, taxi) if the grandparent cannot transport the child themselves.
Custody for Grandparents in Florida
Custody of grandchildren will be granted to the grandparents under Florida law in only the most extreme of circumstances. For example, both of the child’s parents have died, both are in vegetative states, violence is present in the household or there is only one parent alive and he or she is a convicted felon.
If a situation arises where both of the child’s parents lose their parental rights, the courts provide grandparents with the option to adopt the child, but only if adopting the child is in the best interest of the child. When a child is adopted by their grandparent, the grandparent assumes all legal rights over the child and severs those with the parent.
Speak with a Skilled Pensacola Grandparents Rights Lawyer
Being denied access to your grandchildren can be devastating. The law in Florida protects the parents of the children and requires courts to make decisions in the best interest of the children. If you have been denied visitation with your grandchildren, it is time to speak to an experienced and skilled Pensacola grandparents’ rights lawyer. Crystal Collins Spencer, Attorney at Law, has the commitment, skills, and experience necessary to fight for your rights as a grandparent in Florida. Be sure to contact Spencer Law today at 820-912-8080 to schedule a consultation. You may also message us through the contact form on our website.