Grandparents' Rights to Visitation in Florida
Unfortunately, Florida courts have not been friendly to the wishes and wants of grandparents to see their grandchildren or gain custody of them. There are statutes in place addressing grandparents' rights, but courts have often ruled adversely to those statutes While it is possible for grandparents to get custody or of have visitation rights to grandchildren, it is rare and very difficult to get a court to grant these orders.
First, it is incredibly rare for grandparents to be able to get full custody. Courts will always favor rulings that give custody to biological parents. In cases where the safety or well-being of the child is questionable with the biological parents, a judge may grant temporary custody to the grandparents. However, many times the court will put the children in foster care while the fitness of the bio-parents is being sorted out. Grandparents may petition the court to take the children at this time and many judges look favorably on having the children go with family they are familiar with. It is generally unlikely, however, that this will be permanent custody for the grandparents. It is a rare case, however, that a judge will grant a petition for custody by grandparents where there is no question of both of the biological parents' availability and fitness.
Court-ordered visitation is also rare for grandparents. The reasoning behind a judge's reluctance to order bio-parents to allow grandparents visitation of their children is that an intact, healthy family may rightfully make the decision to not have grandparents involved in their children's lives. A court will look to see if the children's family is intact, functioning properly, and seemingly supportive of the child's best interests. If the court sees no issues with the family dynamic, it will be unlikely to force the bio-parents to allow the grandparents to visit. Judges will assume that not allowing grandparents to see their children is a decision that was discussed and made by the parents voluntarily and after some debate and will not interfere with this decision. The grandparents of a deceased bio-parent may be cut off from visitation of their grandchild if the surviving spouse remarries and the child is in a healthy family situation in which the bio-parent and step-parent have made the decision that it is in the child's best interest to no longer have a relationship with the grandparents of the deceased parent. The Courts are more friendly in a situation where there is a step-parent adoption where the grandparents are the parents of the person that has voluntarily terminated custody. While the courts are often not supportive of grandparents' visitation rights, having a healthy relationship with the parents of the grandchildren should be enough to ensure continued visitation.