Grandparent Visitation Law Update

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Grandparent Rights on Wednesday, September 30, 2015.

It surprises many Floridians – because of the large percentage of grandparents here – but grandparent don’t have visitation rights. The Utah Supreme Court just ruled similarly. What happened in Utah?

The Utah Supreme Court held that grandparents seeking to override parents must present proof that a visitation order is narrowly tailored to advance a compelling governmental interest – such as protecting children against substantial harm.

A pair of grandparents in Utah were having a dispute with their former daughter-in-law over visitation with their granddaughter. The grandparents had acted in a parent-like role as caregivers.

But the Utah Supreme Court invalidated the order:

“Grandparent visitation orders must be limited to the exceptional case where the failure to override the parent’s wishes would cause substantial harm to the child.” The decision was unanimous.

Grandparents are increasingly playing a significant role in the lives of their grandchildren. But the interests of grandparents, no matter how well-meaning, do not trump the rights of parents to determine what’s best for their children.

Florida law is very similar to Utah’s recent ruling. Grandparent child custody and timesharing rights do not exist in Florida. But as American parents deal with both economic recession and family upheaval, 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.

I wrote an article in the Florida Bar Journal about grandparent visitation rights, and the attempts by Florida lawmakers to serve this big part of our population.

Two current statutory grounds for awarding grandparent visitation have been ruled unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court. Confusingly, these two provisions remain in the statute.

The laws were unconstitutional because compelling visitation with a grandparent based solely on the best interest of the child, without the showing harm to the child violates parents’ privacy.

The Utah Supreme Court case background is available here.