Grandparents in Florida enjoy the right to visitation or temporary custody of minor grandchildren, depending on the circumstances. The Florida statutes covering these rights, and the circumstances under which they can be enforced, are in Chapters 751 (Temporary Custody of Minor Children by Extended Family) and 752 (Grandparental Visitation Rights) of the Domestic Relations Code.
Visitation and Custody
Visitation and custody are both court-enforcable rights regarding a minor child. They are different, however, in that visitation pertains only to spending limited time with a child, and ultimate control of the child remains in the hands of whomever has custody. The person who has custody of a child, on the other hand, has control over the child, will make decisions regarding the child's well being, and most often lives with the child.
Seeking Temporary Custody
Grandparents can seek temporary custody under Florida law of minor grandchildren in limited circumstances. The grandparent must have the signed, notarized consent of the child's parents, unless the grandparent already lives with the child. The grandparent must file a petition with the court that strictly complies with Florida Code Section 751.03. The purpose of this statute is to allow family members who are already taking care of a minor child but who lack legal recognition of guardianship to get that legal recognition, so they can act on the child's behalf.
Grandparents in Florida have a right to visitation in limited circumstances, such as where the minor child's parents have divorced, or if a parent has deserted the minor child, or if the child was not born to a married couple. In order to seek visitation rights, the grandparent must petition the court and show that it is in the child's best interest to visit with the grandparent. If the child's parent protests, the court may order a mediation process to try and resolve the dispute.
Best Interests of Child
In questions of both visitation and temporary custody, the Florida court will consider whether granting the petition will be in the best interests of the minor child. Some of these factors include whether the grandparent and minor child already have a relationship, whether the child wants a relationship with the grandparent, the relationship between the grandparent and the parent of the child and everyone's mental and physical health.
If a court awards a Florida grandparent either visitation or temporary custody, there are legal effects. If the grandparent has visitation rights, and the parent denies the grandparent access to the child, the grandparent can seek to have those rights enforced through the court. If the grandparent gains temporary custody of a minor child, she can then make decisions as to the child's medical care, enroll the child in school and get access to the child's essential records.