In the past few decades, grandparents seeking visitation in Florida have had limited rights and little success in the court system. This was due to courts’ concerns and reluctance to interfere with a parent’s constitutional right to parent his or her child without intrusion by the government.
House Bill 149 | 2015 Florida Statutes Chapter 752
On June 11, 2015, Governor Scott signed into law House Bill 149, which expands grandparents visitation rights. Florida courts will require a high standard be met before awarding a grandparent visitation. However, the opportunities for grandparents to petition a court will be much greater.
Under the new law, which became effective July 1, 2015, grandparents may petition the Court for visitation under several circumstances. This includes if both the child’s parents are deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state, or if one of the parents is deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state and the other parent has been convicted of a felony or violent crime that may evidence behavior that would pose a harm to the child.
The Court will refer a case to mediation if there is prima facie evidence of a parent’s unfitness or harm to the child included in the grandparent’s petition. If an agreement cannot be reached at mediation, a hearing will be held to determine if an award of visitation is proper.
As with other types of family law cases, the Court must determine if awarding a grandparent visitation is in the best interest of the child. The best interest of the child is decided by evaluating how the totality of the circumstances surrounding the case affect the mental and email well-being of the child. In addition to determining the best interest of the child, the Court must also determine if the parent is unfit or poses a significant risk of harm to the child and whether the visitation will harm the parent-child relationship.
If you need help related to the new laws for grandparents, contact our office at 904.353.7733 now!