Can a Parent Deny a Grandparent Visitation?
As a grandparent, losing visitation access to your grandchildren can be frustrating and scary. After a parental divorce, death, or another life event, one or both parents may lose visitation, which leads to the question of whether a parent can bar you from seeing your grandchild. It is important to note that the term grandparent legally includes great-grandparent.
In Florida, parents have the right to decide who can and cannot see their children. If you lost visitation after the child’s parents divorced, unfortunately, they have a right to keep your grandkids from you.
Only in very limited circumstances will a court grant a grandparent the rights against the parent’s wishes. Under Florida law, grandparents, including step-grandparents are entitled to reasonable visitation with their grandchild if the child has been removed from their parent’s custody. However, their visitation must be in the best interest of the child. They may also send letters, gifts, cards, and online communications if it is safe.
Under Florida Statute § 752.011, grandparents can also petition for visitation with a minor if:
- The child’s parents are missing, meaning their whereabouts are unknown for at least 90 days, and they are not able to be located after a thorough search and inquiry, which should include inquiries to relatives, hospitals in the area, recent employer’s, state and federal agencies, postal providers as well as a law enforcement investigation and review of a missing persons database.
- The child’s parents are dead.
- The child’s parents are in a persistent vegetative state.
- One of the child’s parents is missing, dead, or in a persistent vegetative state, and the other parent has been convicted of a felony or violent offense that suggests they are a danger to the child’s health or welfare.
- The child’s parents are unfit (by legal standards).
Does a Parent Have a Right to Know Who Is Around Their Child?
A parent does have the right to know where their children are and who they are with during visitations. If their child is left with grandparents or any other person without the other parent present, they have the right to know. However, if the parents have shared custody, the parent cannot dictate who is around the child unless the child is in danger physically or mentally.
Applying for Grandparents’ Rights in Florida
To petition the court for visitation rights as a grandparent, you will first need to file a petition alleging that the child’s parents are unfit. After the initial filing, you will need to attend a preliminary court hearing. During this hearing, the court will determine whether the petitioner can prove that the parent meets the aforementioned criteria or is unfit. If this cannot be shown, the case will be dismissed, and in some cases, the petitioner may be required to pay for the respondent’s attorney fees and court costs.
If you have sufficient evidence that the parent is unfit, the court will likely recommend mediation where the parents, grandparents, and their attorneys try to negotiate an agreement. If mediation fails, the court will make a final determination with the best interest of the child being the key deciding factor. The court will consider the child’s mental and emotional wellbeing as well as:
- The grandparent’s relationship with the child (i.e. the love, affection, and other emotional ties between them)
- The length and quality of the child and grandparent’s relationship
- Whether the grandparent has already established an ongoing relationship with the child prior to the parent’s death, the parent going missing, or the onset of their persistent vegetative state
- The reason that the responding parent decided to terminate the contact or visitation between the grandparent and child
- Written testimony or statements from the deceased or incapacitated parent concerning their reasons for terminating visitation
Contact Our Firm for Help
Known for offering clients high-quality services, you can trust our legal team to provide you with the personalized attention and counsel you deserve. If you are getting a divorce and have children, we can advise you of your legal rights and options concerning who can fight for access to your children. We can also help you with child custody and parenting time agreements.
Contact the Law Office of Jody L. Fisher today by calling (352) 503-4111. With over 17 years of experience, our firm is here to help you.