While many grandparents have been rejoicing over the new grandparents visitation rights law that went into effect July 1 in Florida, it's important to understand what this new law allows and whom it applies to. Contrary to popular belief — and hope — the law does not give grandparents the opportunity to tell the courts in a custody or visitation situation why they believe that having visitation with the children is in the children's best interests.
Instead, the rights provided for in the law are only applicable to those who meet certain criteria. To be able to seek visitation rights under the new law, the one or both of the child's parents must be missing, dead or in a persistent vegetative state. However, in the case where only one parent meets one of these criteria, the other parent must be convicted of a felony for the grandparents to be able to petition for formal visitation rights.
The reason for these requirements is that the Florida courts uphold the parents' right to socialize their children as they see fit, including not allowing them to be around other family members. While this very well might be in the best interests of the child in certain situations, this means that even if the child has lived with the grandparents for a time or has a very close, positive relationship with them, the parents can still refuse visitation if they choose.
Grandparents seeking visitation rights have an uphill battle in Florida, but it is possible in certain situations. If you have questions about how the new law may impact your ability to request visitation rights, a family law attorney can provide more information.
Source: Sun Sentinel, "Grandparents' rights inch forward with new visitation law," Diane C. Lade, accessed Sep. 04, 2015