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Florida passes new grandparents' visitation right law

History was made recently with the enactment of a new Florida law that could have a significant impact on the rights of grandparents with regard to child custody and visitation. Previously, grandparents had few, if any, legal rights in the state of Florida with respect to visitation with their grandchildren. Legally, it made no difference whether their grandchildren had lived with them for any extended period of time.

The new law affords certain grandparents the right to request visitation hours. In order to be part of the eligible subset of grandparents with visitation rights, both parents of the child must either be dead or missing. The law will also apply if they happen to be in a vegetative state. Grandparents may also be eligible if one of the parents is dead, missing or in a vegetative state and the other has been convicted of a felony crime.

In most cases, the law provides that parents should be afforded the right to control who can legally gain access to their children. There are many good reasons for this to be the rule. However, there are many cases where grandparents wish to see their grandchildren, but cannot get permission. Sometimes, grandparents are unable to see their grandchildren because the grandparents and their own child cannot get along. Often, a divorce can interfere with grandparents' ability to see their grandchildren.

Whatever the scenario, it can be heartbreaking when grandparents feel shut out of their grandchildren's lives. The new law shows that Florida is beginning to recognize that grandparents have rights of their own. Attorneys with experience in these difficult cases can help grandparents to understand how the law may apply to them.

Source: Sun-Sentinel, "Grandparents' rights inch forward with new visitation law," Diane Lade, June 19, 2015

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