By: John Knutton, Esquire
National Grandparents Day is celebrated annually in the United States on the first Sunday after Labor Day each year. The Day’s purpose is “to honor grandparents, to give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children, and to help children become aware of strength, information, and guidance older people can offer.”
Historically, in the State of Florida, courts were very hesitant to give grandparents the right to see their grandchildren, especially if one parent did not agree. In 2015, Governor Rick Scott signed a bill into law that authorizes the grandparent of a minor child the ability to petition a court for visitation under certain circumstances. These circumstances include if both parents are deceased, missing, or in a vegetative state, OR if one parent is deceased, missing, or in a vegetative state AND the other parent has been convicted of a felony or an offense of violence demonstrating behavior that poses a substantial threat of harm to the minor child.
Once a petition is filed by a grandparent, the court will hold a preliminary hearing to determine whether the grandparent has made a prima facie showing that the parent is unfit or poses a significant threat of harm to the minor child. If the grandparent cannot make such a showing, the petition will be dismissed, and the court may award attorney’s fees to the parent.
If the court finds that there is prima facie evidence that the parent is unfit or that there is a significant threat of harm to the minor child, then the court may appoint a guardian ad litem, and refer the case to mediation. If the case is not resolved through mediation, then the case may proceed to a final hearing.
If a court finds through clear and convincing evidence that the parent is unfit or that there is significant threat of harm to the child, that visitation with the grandparent is in the best interest of the minor child, and that visitation will not materially harm the parent-child relationship, then the court may award reasonable visitation to the grandparent. In assessing the best interests of the child, the court will go through a number of factors affecting the mental and emotional well-being of the child.
Should you or your family require assistance obtaining grandparent visitation rights in the State of Florida, please give the experienced attorneys at Compass Law a call to discuss your case.