Can grandparents get visitation rights in court?
A grandparent can file a petition in court for visitation of a minor grandchild in the county where the child lives if certain conditions are met.1
Step 1. In order to file, one of the following must be true:
- both parents are dead, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state; or
- one parent is dead, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state and the other parent has been convicted of a felony or a crime of violence in which s/he showed behavior that poses a substantial threat of harm to the child’s health or welfare.2
Step 2. Then, the court would hold a hearing to determine whether the grandparent has set out facts that show parental unfitness or significant harm to the child. If the judge believes that there is no indication of either one, the judge will dismiss the petition and the grandparent can be ordered to pay the other party’s reasonable attorney fees and costs. If the grandparent has shown enough evidence to the judge that a parent is unfit or that there is significant harm to the child, the judge can appoint a guardian ad litem for the child and will refer the case for mediation or hold a final hearing.
However, there is an exception to the requirement to show parental unfitness or significant harm if one parent has been held criminally liable for the death of the other parent or civilly liable for an intentional tort causing the death of the other parent. Then, the judge will grant reasonable visitation with the petitioning grandparent or step-grandparent if s/he is the parent of the deceased person, unless the judge determines that visitation is not in the best interests of the child.3
Step 3. If the parties cannot come to an agreement through mediation and the judge holds a final hearing to decide the issue, the judge can grant reasonable visitation to the grandparent if all of the following are true:
- there is clear and convincing evidence that a parent is unfit or that there is significant harm to the child;
- visitation will not significantly harm the parent-child relationship; and
- the visitation is in the best interest of the child.4
To read about the factors that the judge will consider when deciding if the visitation is in the child’s best interests, go to our Selected Florida Statutes page to read subsection (4) of the law.
To read about the factors that the judge will consider when deciding if the visitation would significantly harm the parent-child relationship, go to our Selected Florida Statutes page to read subsection (5) of the law.
1 F.S.A. § 752.011(12)
2 F.S.A. § 752.011
3 F.S.A. § 752.011(1), (2), (3)
4 F.S.A. § 752.011(4)