Fight for grandparents' visitation rights continues in Florida

In today's society, many grandparents play an active role in helping raise their grandchildren. But in spite of their involvement in the upbringing and care of their grandchildren, grandparents' rights are legally limited when it comes to visitation.

But these rights may be expanded for Florida residents. Over 3,000 people have signed a petition in support of a state law that would afford family members of a murdered or missing person visitation rights. The proposed statute is being called Michelle's Law.

The petition was established by the mother of a missing woman after the missing woman's ex-fiancé was granted custody of the couple's twins. Even though the missing woman's ex-fiancé has not been formally charged, he is the prime suspect in the woman's disappearance. The twins, their mother and their maternal grandmother had lived together for the past three years. However, presently the grandmother has minimal visitation rights with the twins and whatever time she is given is entirely at the discretion of her daughter's ex-fiancé.

A healthy relationship with grandparents and other extended family members is an integral part of a child's upbringing. However, under the current legal system, it is difficult for grandparents' to get visitation with their grandchildren. A Florida court may grant grandparents' visitation if it is determined that such visitation is in the best interest of the child. But a court may determine that one parent is fit to raise a child to the exclusion of the other parent. For the parent who loses custody, it may be difficult to argue in favor of their own parents' visitation rights.

The burden to show that contact with grandchildren will be beneficial is on the grandparents. Given the legal complexity that revolves around grandparents' visitation rights, it may be important to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney. The right lawyer will help their client to understand all laws surrounding the issues and will give them an open, honest assessment of their particular case.

Source: Seminole Chronicle, "Michelle Parker case results in petition," Jeff Gardenour, Nov 15, 2012

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