Grandparent Visitation and Custody Increase

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Grandparent Rights on Monday, September 23, 2013.

Grandparent child custody and timesharing rights do not exist in Florida. But as American parents deal with the economic recession over the last few years, grandparents have stepped in to help. According to a recent survey, grandparents were the main caregivers for more than 3 million children in 2011 – a 20% increase from 2000, the Pew Research Center found.

As the Los Angeles Times reports:

“The parent gets laid off, or their home is foreclosed upon. They can’t afford the mortgage or rent,” said Susan Smith of the nonprofit Insight Center for Community Economic Development. Often “the quickest solution is, ‘Mom, Dad, can you help out?’ ” With the “jobless recovery,” Smith said, that help is still needed.

But money is just one of many problems that push grandparents into caregiving. Nearly half of parents who lived with their kids but left grandparents in charge were teens when their babies were born, Pew found. Other parents handed off children to grandparents when they went to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan, said Amy Goyer, home and family expert for AARP. Still others lost or relinquished their kids after tangling with drugs or alcoholism, suffering mental illness or landing in prison.

More than a fifth of grandparents who care for grandchildren live under the poverty line, Pew found – more than twice the overall poverty rate among Americans ages 50 and over. The financial challenges appear especially stark for grandparents raising grandchildren alone.

“You may have set aside a retirement for you and your husband – and now you have to spend your savings on feeding and clothing young children,” said Sylvie de Toledo, founder of the nonprofit Grandparents As Parents and author of a survival guide with the same name.

As I mentioned in my Florida Bar Journal article, Florida’s Legislature amended Chapter 751, and now authorizes courts to order concurrent custody to extended family members, such as grandparents, who have physical custody, but lack documentation necessary to consent to a child’s medical treatment, or to enroll a child in school.

However, the statute provides that concurrent custody may not diminish a parent’s custodial rights, and the court must terminate an order for concurrent custody if one of the parents objects.