Grandparent Visitation Rights Update

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Grandparent Rights on Wednesday, February 3, 2016.

It’s been about 15 years since the U.S. Supreme Court decided the grandparent rights of visitation case Troxel. What is the status of grandparent visitation 15 years on?

In Troxel v. Granville, grandparents asked to expand their visitation rights. The children’s mother had reduced the grandparents’ visitation to one afternoon a month.

The U.S. Supreme Court reasoned that the Due Process Clause protects the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.

So, as long as a parent is adequately caring for his or her child, there will normally be no reason for the state to inject itself into the private realm of the family. The basic presumption in Troxel is that fit parents act in the best interests of their children.

However, the Troxel court did not hold that the Due Process Clause requires a showing of harm or potential harm to the child as a condition to granting visitation. That is a Florida law.

Instead, the U.S. Supreme Court left those decisions for the states to decide on a case-by-case basis.

I’ve written about grandparent visitation. Florida has its own constitution. The Florida Constitution contains an express right of privacy written into it:

Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person’s private life except as otherwise provided herein. This section shall not be construed to limit the public’s right of access to public records and meetings as provided by law.

It surprises many Floridians – because of the large percentage of grandparents here – but grandparent don’t have visitation rights here. But grandparent visitation is alive and well in Indiana.

In this year’s Indiana Supreme Court case, a child’s maternal grandparents filed for visitation after their relationship with the child’s father became contentious.

Based on the opinion of mental health experts, the trial court ordered grandarent visitation totaling approximately 79-days per year. The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the order.

Florida law is not like Indiana’s. Grandparent child custody and timesharing rights do not exist in Florida. without the showing harm to the child violates parents’ privacy.

With the Florida legislature in session, and new bills dealing with a parent’s right to delegate certain powers regarding the care and custody of the child, grandparent visitation may be an area to keep an eye on.

The Indiana Lawyer article is available here.