Grandparents’ visitation rights with their grandchildren are extremely limited in Florida. A recent case in Brevard County demonstrates how difficult it can be for grandparents to convince a court to order a parent to allow them to spend time with a grandchild.
The Brevard County case involved two grandparents seeking to see their granddaughter after the death of their daughter, the girl’s mother. The child had lived with them until her mother’s death, when she went to live with her father, who had custody. The judge, taking the state’s law into account, ruled against the grandparents because the child’s father had never been convicted of a felony. Although the man had pled guilty to possessing cocaine in the past, he was never actually convicted.
A Florida statute places limits on situations in which grandparents can turn to the courts to seek visitation time. Typically, visitation will only be awarded in cases where both parents are dead, missing or incapacitated, or in cases where one parent is dead, missing or incapacitated and the other parent has been convicted of a felony or other serious offense that puts the child at risk.
The state assumes that a parent is capable of deciding whether to allow grandparents into a child’s life unless the grandparents can offer proof to dispute this. Arguments about how much the grandparents love or care for the child generally do not work to invalidate a parent’s right to make these decisions.
To many on both sides, Florida law does not provide an adequate solution to this problem. Grandparents feel they are being wrongfully excluded from the lives of their grandchildren, while parents argue that a conviction for a nonviolent crime decades ago should have no bearing on their ability to make decisions about raising their children. Sadly, in the end, it’s the children who suffer, since they are being deprived of the chance to spend time with their grandparents.
If you have questions about grandparent time-sharing or custody rights, consult the dedicated Tampa-areafamily law attorneys at the Law Offices of K. Dean Kantaras, P.A.