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It can be distressing enough for a grandparent to face the prospect of his or her child’s divorce, but the prospect of losing contact with a grandchild can be heartbreaking. Despite the major role often played in the lives of their grandchildren, grandparents’ rights vary considerably from state to state. Although Florida has enacted a statute giving grandparents visitation rights in some circumstances, many of its provisions have been found to be unconstitutional by Florida’s courts.

Statutory rights

Grandparents may request of the court reasonable visitation rights if it is in the child’s best interests in any of the following cases:

  • The parents’ marriage was dissolved.
  • A parent deserted the child.
  • The child was born out of wedlock and later determined to have been born within wedlock.

When determining a child’s best interests, courts consider the following factors:

  • How willing the grandparent is to encourage a close relationship between the child and the parent(s)
  • The quality and duration of the relationship between the child and the grandparent(s)
  • The child’s preference, if the child is sufficiently mature
  • The physical and mental health of the grandparent(s) and the child
  • Any other necessary factor in the circumstances

These rights are terminated if the child is adopted, unless the adoption is by a stepparent.

Constitutional issues

Unfortunately for grandparents, courts have found that many provisions of the statute violate parents’ rights to raise their children free from government interference. Even a visitation order granted in another state may not be upheld in Florida. In a fairly recent case, a court terminated vitiation rights granted to a grandparent by a Virginia court. However, despite these issues, the statute remains on Florida’s statute books.

If you are a grandparent and are seeking visitation rights for your grandchild, contact an experienced Daytona divorce lawyer for advice and assistance.