Grandparents' visitation rights evaporate after divorce

Florida Families are dynamic and can be large or small with many cousins or a few, grandparents, uncles and aunts. However, the family dynamic is disrupted during a divorce and negatively impact various relationships particularly those with grandparents'.

Despite playing an integral role in the upbringing of their grandchildren and providing financial support, grandparents' rights are limited. According to the AARP 37 percent of grandparents' indicated helping with daily living costs and a quarter stated spending more than a $1000 annually on their grandchildren. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a state law which allowed grandparents visitation if it would be in the best interest of the child.

Since the ruling it is difficult to argue in favor of grandparent visitation. The Florida Supreme Court on several occasions has ruled that the statute granting grandparent visitation is unconstitutional. Currently, a Floridian judge may order the visitation if is in the best interest of the child, a parent has deserted the child or the child was born out of wedlock.

Most grandparents' enjoy being a part of their grandchildren's lives and continue to provide financial help to their children and thereby their grandchildren. Under current tax laws, they may be able to give an annual monetary gift. Further, they can help out by investing in college savings plans or provide other monetary assistance. However, the regularity of such gifts may be considered by judges as a source of income for the recipient and impact child support and alimony payments. Occasionally, when a parent sees the desperation in the eyes the grandparent to see their grandchild, they may make unreasonable monetary demands and sadly use children as bargaining chips.

Every state is different when it comes to grandparents' visitation rights but since the U.S. Supreme Court decision, most states have struck down their statutes. But, a healthy on-going relationship between the child and grandparent is important to the child's growth. Grandparent rights are limited but by working with parents in including grandparent visitation in visitation agreements, a positive relationship will be fostered.

Source: Reuters, "Grandparents, purse strings and divorce," Temma Ehrenfield, July 23, 2012

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