Florida Divorce and Grandparents’ Rights
Southgate, Florida, holds the dubious honor of the highest divorce rate in the state, at just over twenty-two percent (22%). By contrast, the divorce rate in the United States as a whole is just under eleven percent (11%). Divorce impacts not only the relationships between children and their parents, but also siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives. In most cases, there is little that extended family can do to regain contact with the children, but grandparents may have some rights in certain cases.
Most states have regulations regarding grandparent visitation rights, though some allow grandparents more rights than others. Generally, these laws assume that parents have the best interests of their children in mind and are within their rights to make decisions about how much or if the child will see his or her grandparents. Florida is considered one of the most restrictive states in terms of grandparent rights.
Under Florida law, grandparents do have some limited rights to their grandchildren. These rights are applicable if:
- The child is a minor or dependent
- The child has been removed from the physical custody of his or her parents
- Visitation is in the best interests of the child
- Visitation will not interfere with the case plan for the child
Grandparents do not have any visitation rights if the child is in the custody of a parent who has been deemed fit to parent. Even if the child is no longer in parental custody, the grandparents of the children will have to prove that visitation would be in the best interests of the child. These same regulations apply to great-grandparents, but do not extend to other relatives.
Termination of Parental Rights
Due to the fact that grandparents do not have any enforceable visitation rights unless the child has been removed from parental custody, you may consider obtaining custody of your grandchild. Your fight to obtain custody will require the termination of parental rights, as well as proof that placing the child with you is in his or her best interests.
In many cases, you may have been a consistent part of caring for your grandchild prior to the termination of parental rights. If the child has lived with you for six months within the two years prior to the termination of parental rights, the court is required to notify you if parental rights are severed pending adoption. This may provide you the opportunity to adopt the child, thereby maintaining your relationship.
If the child is adopted by another individual, whether or not they are a blood relative, the laws related to grandparent rights above will apply. However, case workers often encourage adoptive parents to help a child maintain healthy contacts with blood relatives as a way of helping the child adjust to the new living situation and develop a clear identity.
Contact an Attorney
If you are being denied the opportunity to see your grandchildren, contact the Orlando family law attorneys at O’Mara Law Group today. We will work to ensure that your rights are being respected and that you gain access to your grandchildren if at all possible.