As a Grandparent, What Are My Rights?
Grandparents’ rights are part of family law statutes in every state. Some states grant grandparents more rights than others, while some are extremely strict about the circumstances under which grandparents can pursue visitation and custody of their grandchildren.
Florida is fairly specific about when and how grandparents can exercise their rights to their grandchildren. When a child’s parents are present in his or her life, they have the right to make all decisions about who will and who will not have a relationship with the child. Only when the child’s parents cannot make this type of decision do grandparents’ rights kick in in Florida.
When Grandparents can Exercise their Rights in Florida
In Florida, a grandparent may seek custody of a child or visitation with him or her under the following circumstances:
- When both of the child’s parents are deceased, reported missing to law enforcement, or in permanent vegetative states; or
- One parent is deceased, reported missing, or in a permanent vegetative state and the other parent has been convicted of a felony or another violent offense that could put the child’s safety at risk.
The presence of one of these scenarios does not automatically entitle a grandparent to visitation or custody of the grandchild. Rather, it entitles them to petition for one of these rights.
Demonstrating your Fitness as a Grandparent
When you petition for visitation or custody of your grandchild, you must demonstrate to the court that you having these rights is in the child’s best interest. You will need to support your case with documents showing that your child’s mental or physical health would suffer without maintaining a consistent relationship with you. These documents can include commentary from the child’s teachers and other adults in his or her life attesting to your day-to-day involvement and anything that shows that the child resided with you for an extended period of time, like school registration documents.
After filing your petition, the court holds a hearing to determine if you have grounds to seek visitation or custody – basically, that you meet one of the criteria listed above. If so, the case is typically moved to mediation, where you and any others involved in the case, which could include the child’s parent or a guardian ad litem, work with the court to determine an appropriate arrangement for the child. Your arrangement may not harm the child’s relationship with his or her parent or parents, if there is potential for them to return to the child’s life.
Work with an Experienced Tampa Family Lawyer
Our team of experienced Tampa family lawyers at Bubley & Bubley, P.A. can answer any questions you have about grandparents’ rights in Florida and how they pertain to your case. If you do have grounds to seek court-ordered time with your grandchild, we can work with you to pursue your case and act as your advocate every step of the way. Contact our firm today to schedule your initial legal consultation with us.