This year in Tallahassee, the Florida legislature passed a bill which gave a very small window of opportunity for grandparents to legally seek visitation with a minor grandchild in certain limited circumstances.
Under the provisions of this bill, a grandparent may petition for visitation with a grandchild if the child’s parents of the minor child are deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state, or where one parent is deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state and the other parent has been convicted of a felony or an offense of violence showing behavior which poses a substantial threat of harm to the minor child’s health or welfare.
If a grandparent makes a prima facie showing of parental unfitness or significant harm to a grandchild, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem. The court must refer the case to family mediation to address the grandparent’s request for vitiation. If mediation is unsuccessful, the court will proceed with a final hearing.
If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that a parent is unfit or that there is significant harm to the child, that visitation is in the best interest of the minor child, and that the visitation will not materially harm the parent child relationship, the court may award grandparent visitation.
The statute provides a number of factors for the court to consider in determining the child’s best interest, including the relationship between the child and the grandparent and the mental, physical, and emotional health of both the child and the grandparent.
The law also sets forth factors for the court’s consideration in deciding whether or not grandparent visitation would materially harm the parent-child relationship. Those factors include, but are not limited to, the reason visitation is requested, the previous disputes between the grandparent and the child’s parent over childrearing, and the nature of the relationship between the child’s parent and the grandparent.
The bill was presented to the Governor for approval on June 1, 2015. If approved, it will take effect on July 1, 2015.