Divorces are typically thought of as a private matter that only affects the couple that has chosen to separate. However, the truth is that the families of both spouses can be greatly impacted by a divorce, too. This includes grandparents, who can become even more involved in a divorce when children are involved and the issue of child custody is brought up. Grandparents become attached to children and form special bonds just like parents do. When a couple of divorces, the grandparents don’t want to have to fight to be able to see their precious grandchildren. But, do grandparents have any rights in the eyes of the law? Every state has its own set of laws regarding grandparent visitation rights. In the state of Florida, grandparents can seek legal help for visitation rights, but only in certain situations.
Some Florida grandparents who are denied visitations with their grandchildren may get legal help – but only in some very precise circumstances – thanks to a bill (HB 149) that is heading to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature. In cases where a grandchild’s parents are both deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state – or where one parent is and the other parent has a felony conviction – grandparents would be enabled to seek visitation rights. The legislation, co-sponsored by State Senator Joseph Abruzzi (D-Wellington) and Representative Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg), is primarily a response to a central Florida case in which a woman disappeared and her parents were prevented from seeing their grandchildren by the children’s father. In south Florida, if you are involved in any custody or visitation dispute as a parent or as a grandparent, or if you simply have questions or concerns about a child custody or visitation matter, don’t hesitate to speak with an experienced Boca Raton family law attorney who will defend your rights and fight for the best possible outcome for your case.
When Michelle Parker disappeared in 2011, the prime suspect was her ex-fiancé Dale Wayne Smith, the father of her two children. Dale Wayne Smith prevented Ms. Parker’s mother, Yvonne Stewart of Orlando, from visiting her grandchildren. Criminal charges against Smith have not been filed as of yet, but Ms. Parker’s family is suing him for wrongful death in a civil action.
HB 149 was popular in Tallahassee; both houses of the Florida Legislature approved it unanimously. When parents or grandparents seek visitation rights, Florida family law courts make the best interests of the child or children the highest priority. In determining visitation rights, a court would first consider the grandparents’ history with the child and the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of everyone involved. The court may also consider a parent’s motive for preventing grandparental visitations to determine whether or not the grandparents have any right to visitations. If you are a grandparent – or a parent – and you are being denied visitations, or if you are on either side of a custody or visitation dispute in south Florida, speak at once with an experienced Boca Raton child custody attorney.