Grandparents’ Rights In Orlando Child Custody Disputes
Being a grandparent is one of the greatest joys in life. It is something many parents look forward to as they age. Unfortunately, estrangement, family rifts or other issues might affect an adult child’s relationship with their parents, and in turn, a grandparent’s relationship with their grandchildren. Many grandparents are frustrated that they cannot see their grandchild as often as they would like, or believe their grandchild is unsafe or not being cared for. Can a grandparent seek court-ordered visitation? Will an Orange County family law judge consider a third party custody dispute?
Third Party Visitation
It happens more often than people think. Grandparents and extended relatives are at odds with a child’s parents and feel they are entitled to see their grandchild, niece or nephew more often, so they seek a resolution in court. However, there are very limited circumstances when a Florida family court judge would find in a grandparent’s favor.
First, visits must have been completely cut off. If a granddad still sees his grandchild for holidays or every two months, this is not sufficient to seek a resolution in court. Second, the grandparent has the burden of proof in establishing that it is in the best interest of the child for visitation to be granted. Fla. Stat. § 39.509.6 (2021). Because parents have a fundamental right to raise their children as they see fit (even if it means limiting visits with extended family) courts are hesitant to undermine a parent’s choices by awarding visitation to a relative.
Third Party Custody
If a parent is deemed unfit by the courts due to excessive drug abuse, or incarceration, or if a parent is deceased, sometimes a grandparent or extended relative will seek third party custody. In other circumstances, a grandparent might petition for legal guardianship, perhaps if the child is orphaned. Courts only have the power to remove a child from parental care if it is in the child’s best interest, such as in cases where child abuse is apparent. In some cases, a grandchild might have been cared for by grandparents or previously resided with a grandparent if the parent was incapacitated. If a parent has been rehabilitated or completed a step-up parenting plan, but a grandparent feels that it would be in the child’s best interest to remain with them, the grandparent might challenge the parent for custody. Again, it is rare that the courts will side with a grandparent and award a grandparent custody, absent overwhelming evidence of abuse or neglect on the part of both parents.
Contact Orlando Family Lawyer Steve Marsee
If you are seeking custody of an orphaned grandchild or wish to formally seek visitation with a grandchild, contact Orlando family law attorney Steve Marsee. Third party custody disputes are often challenging to litigate, and it is important to evaluate all options (including mediation) before bringing suit against an adult child. In addition, child guardianship laws come with additional caveats. Attorney Steve Marsee has practiced family law in Orange County for more than three decades and is dedicated to advocating for his clients. Call today to schedule a consultation.