Grandparents can be important to fostering and developing our next generation. Many parents enjoy and benefit from having their parent assist with raising their children; whether the grandparents are the primary daily babysitter or the grandparents have the children for years when the parent is somehow unavailable. In spite of this, grandparents may not have any right to their grandchildren, even though they were there to teach them to say “please” and “thank you,” tuck them into bed at night, and back into bed after a nightmare. If you, as a grandparent, fall into one of these categories, you may be wondering what your rights are as to visitation with your grandchildren. Or, maybe you’re a parent and are also wondering what your rights are as to limiting visitation of your children.
In many children’s lives, their grandparents play a unique and main role. Some parents welcome the help and advice from the grandparents. Other parents may not feel the same way. Each of the 50 states has its own laws regarding grandparent visitation. Florida, however, has one of the strictest policies regarding grandparents’ rights and only grants visitation rights against a parent’s wishes in very limited circumstances.
If you are wondering what the Florida courts base their decisions off, they use the mantra “best interests of the child.” For this reason, if you’re a parent who decides you don’t want your child(ren) to have any contact with their grandparents, the courts will generally honor your desires. This unfortunately makes it challenging if you’re a grandparent, wishing to be awarded “legal rights” to visit your grandchildren when a parent cuts off your time together.
You may now be thinking, “well, then what rights do I have, as a grandparent?” Florida Statute §39.509 states that “a maternal or paternal grandparent as well as a step-grandparent is entitled to reasonable visitation with his or her grandchild who has been adjudicated a dependent child and taken from the physical custody of the parent unless the court finds that such visitation is not in the best interest of the child or that such visitation would interfere with the goals of the case plan.”
Under other limited circumstances, Florida allows you as a grandparent to take temporary custody of your grandchild if you can make a showing that temporary placement in your home will be better for the grandchild than placing them in a foster home or other facility.
Even in the event of divorce or death of a parent, a court will most likely refuse to grant visitation to a grandparent if the other parent is a fit and proper parent and can prohibit any contact between the child(ren) and grandparents. This means that a father may die, and the mother can legally prevent the children from ever seeing their paternal grandparents while they are minors.
In some circumstances, you as a grandparent may obtain legal custody of your grandchild if doing so would be in the child’s best interests, and the parents have been deemed unfit, or the parent (or parents) poses a danger to the child.
The bottom line is that your rights as a grandparent in Florida are always secondary to a parent’s rights. This is because parents have a fundamental right to privacy in raising their own children and is considered one of the most important rights that parents have. Whether you are a grandparent or a parent, it is important to understand your rights.