Do Grandparents Have Any Visitation Rights?
The effects of divorce extend beyond the central family unit, and grandparents, being the next closest circle for most families, are equally impacted by this decision. While Florida promotes shared parental responsibility between divorced parents and frequent and continuing contact with the child, one parent will inevitably receive more parenting time, and thus, greater control over who the child sees and how often. Further, and particularly important to the rights of grandparents, parents have the right to decide who has access to the child, absent a court order, which includes the ability to block grandparents from seeing their grandchild. Accepting limited or no contact with a grandchild can be hard to accept, and many grandparents want to demand they be allowed visitation with the child. Florida law does recognize a grandparents’ interest in their grandchild, but will only interfere with the parents’ right to control access to the child in very limited circumstance. This means some grandparents may not have any recourse if contact is eliminated, and in fact, may not have the right to file a petition for visitation at all. A discussion of the limited circumstances under which a court may consider a request for grandparent visitation rights will follow below.
When Is a Grandparent Permitted to Ask for Visitation?
In order for a court to decide a case, the party asking for court intervention must have standing, or a sufficient connection to the alleged harm, to bring a case. For grandparents seeking visitation, a petition will only be considered if one or both parents are:
- Deceased; or
- In a persistent vegetative state.
If one parent is still living, the grandparent must also show that the parent is unfit or poses significant harm to the child. If these preliminary requirements are not met, the court will dismiss the petition and could order the grandparent to pay the attorney fees of the other side. Thus, making a strong showing from the beginning is important, and illustrates why the services of a family law attorney are critical in these cases.
Factors the Court Will Weigh
Again, Florida is focused on supporting the parents’ rights to the fullest extent possible, so judges must balance a number of sensitive and complicated factors when deciding these cases. Assuming the initial showing is met, the court must then look at if a relationship with the grandparent would injure the parent-child relationship, and if visitation would be in the best interests of the child. Some factors used to make this assessment include:
- The emotional nature and quality of the child’s relationship with the grandparent;
- The closeness of the relationship over time, including if the grandparent regularly cared for the child;
- Why the parent blocked the grandparent’s access to the child; and
- The level of harm suffered by the child by the grandparent’s absence, and how much the grandparent’s involvement benefits the child.
In addition, the court must also consider how visitation would affect the parent-child relationship, and see if any potential harm would outweigh the benefit of the grandparent’s involvement. Factors related to this determination include:
- Disputes between the parent and grandparent over how to raise the child;
- If visitation would compromise the parent’s authority;
- If it is possible to arrange visitation to not materially impact the routine and schedule of the parent-child relationship;
- The relationship between the parent and grandparent; and
- Whether the visitation dispute is affecting the child’s welfare.
As this description shows, these cases demand a lot of the grandparent asking for visitation, and should be pursued with the assistance of a family law attorney to create the best opportunity for success.
Speak with a Family Law Attorney
The rights of parents are prioritized in this State, and if you have questions about the visitation rights of grandparents or other relatives, speak with a family law attorney today. The dedicated attorneys at the Donna Hung Law Group offer the dedication and experience you need to bring a strong case. Contact the Orlando law firm at (407) 999-0099 for a consultation today.