As a grandparent, it can be difficult to have your voice heard during your child's divorce. For grandparents seeking visitation rights, it is important to obtain the advice of a lawyer before making a decision as to whether to proceed with a petition or not. There have been recent modifications regarding grandparent visitation by the Florida Supreme Court. It has been decided that a healthy and well-maintained family has the right to bar grandparent visitation if they wish. That is why it is so important you retain counsel throughout this challenging and complex time.
At Charles E. Willmott, P.A., we understand that grandparents play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren and families. As a family law firm located in Jacksonville, Florida, we are committed to helping grandparents understand their rights and how to protect them in the state of Florida.
Reach out to a grandparents' rights lawyer in Jacksonville today at Charles E. Willmott, P.A.!
Do Grandparents Have Rights in Florida?
In Florida, grandparents can request visitation rights with their grandchildren under certain circumstances. The law recognizes that grandparents play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren and may seek visitation if the parents are deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state. Additionally, grandparents may request visitation if the parents are divorced or have never been married, and the child has lived with them for a significant amount of time.
However, the court will only grant visitation if it is proven to be in the best interest of the child. Grandparents can also file for visitation rights if they can show that the parent denying them visitation has acted in a way that is detrimental to the child’s well-being. It is important to note that grandparents do not have automatic legal rights in Florida, and each case is determined on an individual basis.
Grandparents Visitation Rights in Florida
If you are a grandparent seeking visitation rights in Florida, you must first file a petition for visitation in the circuit court in the county where the child resides. You must also provide the court with evidence that visitation is in the best interest of the child. This evidence can include:
- Affidavits from friends and family
- Evidence of a strong relationship between the grandparent and child
- Any other evidence that supports your claim
Once the petition is filed, the court will schedule a hearing to determine if visitation is in the best interest of the child. The court will consider the grandparent’s relationship with the child, the parent’s reasons for denying visitation, and any other relevant evidence.
Although parents have the right to deny a grandparent visitation, the court can override this decision if the grandparent can prove that visitation is in the best interest of the child. The court can also award visitation rights if the parent is deceased, or if the parents are divorced or separated.
Factors the Courts Consider
There are existing statutes regarding visitation rights for grandparents that instruct the courts to consider a long list of factors so that the best interests of the child are protected.
These factors include:
- Willingness of grandparents to encourage a relationship between child and parent
- Length and quality of prior relationship between the grandchild and grandparent
- Child's wishes regarding the situation if the child is old enough to have a preference
- Mental and physical health of the child and grandparent
These determinations were set in place to make sure that the child's best interests are made first priority. At Charles E. Willmott, P.A., I desire to rebuild family relationships so that each affected member of the situation can move on with their life and the family can remain as close as possible.
What Rights Do Grandparents Have in Florida?
In the state of Florida, grandparents don't generally have rights over the natural parents. This means that if something were to happen to their son or daughter and the natural parent won't let them see the child, the Florida courts don't offer much sympathy to the grandparents. However, depending upon who has custody of the child, there are cases where valid concerns regarding the parents' ability to properly care for the child lead to visitation or custody rights.
Some reasons why a grandparent may be given more rights include:
- One or both parents are arrested
- The child is a victim of severe child abuse
- The child is out of school and being neglected
- The child is living in a house with illegal drugs all over the place
These are all situations where the state may want to remove the child from his or her parents' care. In these types of cases, the court may elect to place the child in the grandparents' care if the grandparents are willing and able to.
Juvenile Dependency Court in Florida
Whenever there is a concern that a child is in immediate danger of being abused, abandoned or otherwise neglected, the case is heard in Juvenile Dependency Court. This court is dedicated to ensuring that children are safe and protected, and it is focused on helping families directly with the issues that brought them to court to begin with. Dependency Court is not about penalizing parents and prosecuting them, it's about finding workable solutions for the family.
When a case goes to Juvenile Dependency Court, it can take one of four courses, including:
- If the state believes that returning the child to their parents would be safe, then the child may be returned to their parents, and with the possibility of services in the parents' home.
- If there is a hearing, then both sides will have the opportunity to explain their side of the story before the judge. If the Judge doesn't believe the state presented enough evidence to have the child cared for outside of the home, then the child will be returned to their parents and under their care.
- If the child's parent decides they would benefit from services, or if the court believes that the parent needs services before the child can be safely returned home, then the parent will have to work on a "case plan" that will be created with the goal of returning the child once the home is safe and stable. Ideally, the parents will work on their case plan, complete all the necessary steps and be reunited with their children.
- Finally, there are dangerous situations in some cases, and when the parent refuses to work on a case plan or when they fail to complete their case plan, then the parents may lose their parental rights and the child may be placed for adoption, or alternatively, another family member or their grandparents may seek custody.
Contact a Grandparent Visitation Lawyer in Jacksonville
When it comes to matters involving custody, grandparents do have certain rights. These include the right to petition the court for visitation or even full custody of the child.
As a grandparent, you have a right to petition for custody in situations of divorce, death of the child's parents, incarceration of child's parents, unfit parents, and a grandchild's delinquent status. As a grandparent, it is important to know and understand your rights. It is my desire to help you understand them better and to make sure they are upheld.
Do not hesitate to call my firm Jacksonville grandparents' rights lawyer for assistance if you feel the need to protect your grandchild.
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