Occasionally, I receive inquiries from grandparents’ concerned about what their rights are in regard to their grandchildren. They ask, “Can I get visitation?” or “Can I file for custody?” The answer, though, is not too positive. Unless it is agreeable to both parents, grandparents generally do not have rights to their grandchildren in the state of Florida, barring action taken by the state in a DCF investigation or other extreme situation.
However, a growing number of grandparents nationwide are pushing to change these standards. The U.S. Supreme Court is looking to decide this winter if they will revisit the issue that was addressed 11 years ago in the case of Troxel v. Granville. The Court in this case ruled that they could not inject themselves into the private realm of the family, when there are two fit parents in the situation. The case made unconstitutional the statutes in each state that allows for some level of 3rd party visitation – so long as the laws infringe on the rights of competent parents. Florida provides for grandparent rights in Chapter 752 of Florida statutes, but the Supreme Court decision has made this law unconstitutional.
There are two sides to this argument. While it is certainly important for a grandparent to bond with a child, there is no remedy if boundaries and trust are broken between the grandparent and one of the child’s parent. At what level will the state force a parent to allow a child to see his or her grandparent? Whatever the result, a court battle is never fun for anyone. If the Supreme Court wishes to open the door, then there may be more avenues for grandparents to pursue. For now, however, grandparents are best suited to make arrangements outside of court, if at all possible, as that may be the only successful avenue.