Visitation is not the same thing as child custody. Custody refers to physically keeping the child or having legal authority over them. When you get visitation, this means that you have scheduled time with the kids, and you must hand them back over when that time is finished.
If a grandparent wants custody of a child, they must essentially make a case against the parents. They must prove that the parents are unfit, and taking the child is in the child’s best interests.
Grandparent visitation is an entirely different matter. Generally speaking, grandparents must have permission from either one or both parents to visit their grandchildren. If either parent refuses visitation, this is no easy task.
Here is a broad overview of grandparents’ rights in Florida. In this article, we will discuss what you, a grandparent, can do to get visitation time with your grandchildren.
Overview of Grandparent Rights in Florida
Florida state law recognizes the important role that grandparents play in a child's life. In certain circumstances, grandparents have the right to seek visitation or even custody of their grandchildren.
Florida considers the child's best interests when making such decisions. When ruling on visitation or custody, the court also considers the relationship between the grandparents and the child.
Generally, grandparents may seek visitation if at least one parent is deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state. Visitation may also be available if the parents have been divorced or for at least three months.
Additionally, grandparents can seek temporary custody if the child's welfare is at risk. This includes cases of abuse, neglect, or abandonment.
Grandparents do not have an automatic right to visitation or custody, but Florida law provides legal avenues to obtain them.
Exceptional Circumstances for Grandparents
Under Florida law, "exceptional circumstances" generally refers to situations where the child's health or safety is at risk. For example, a grandparent might seek custody or visitation if the child's parents are unable or unwilling to provide a safe and stable environment, or if the child has experienced abuse or neglect.
An exceptional circumstance can also indicate instances where the grandparent/grandchild relationship is necessary for the child’s well-being.
In either case, the court will consider various factors, including the child's best interests, the grandparent's relationship with the child, and the grandparent’s ability to provide a suitable home and care.
Factors Courts Consider When Deciding Grandparent Visitation Rights in Florida
- The mental and physical health of the grandparent
- The relationship between the child and grandparents
- The child's wishes (if they are old enough to express them)
- The parent's ability to facilitate and support a relationship between the child and grandparent
- Whether the grandparent(s) have unlawfully taken or retained the child without the parent's consent
Best Practices for Grandparents Seeking Custody or Visitation Rights in Florida
Most importantly, stay aware of the legal requirements and procedures for requesting custody or visitation. This includes filing a petition with the proper court. In this documentation, provide evidence of your relationship with the child and your ability to provide a stable and safe environment.
You should also seek an experienced family law attorney who can guide them through this complicated process. If, for instance, you receive pushback from the parent, you will need legal help to get around it.
Law Offices of Jason K.S. Porter, P.A. can work with you, your family, and the courts to secure grandparent visitation and custody. If you need help, schedule a free consultation with us right away. You can contact us online or call us directly at (904) 701-0591.