A new bill in Florida may grant grandparents more rights

With the holidays right around the corner, families look forward to gatherings and presents and children expect to be spoiled by their grandparents. In today's society, families are dynamic; they grow, shrink, expand and it not uncommon to hear of divorce and remarriage. Once divorce is finalized, families must adjust to changes such as less time with children and accommodating custody and visitation arrangements. Divorce or separation without a doubt disrupts the familial structure that children, parents and extended family members such as grandparents are familiar with.

Depending on the specific facts of the case, typically the parents will have some involvement with their children after the divorce through visitation rights. However, grandparents' visitation rights are not always given much attention by courts and any bond that may have thrived or existed before the divorce is decimated.

Every state has its own law on the issue of grandparents' visitation rights. However, in 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a state law which gave grandparents' visitation and since then. it has become difficult to argue in favor of it. In fact, Florida's Supreme Court on numerous occasions has ruled that granting grandparents visitation is unconstitutional. Despite these setbacks, grandparents in Florida should rejoice in knowing that a new bill before the Florida House is aimed at giving grandparents more rights to visit with their grandchildren.

The intent of the bill is to give grandparents the right to petition the courts for visitation under certain circumstances. The bill was conceived after a missing Florida woman's children were placed with their father, who was not only the ex-fiance of the woman, but also a suspect in her disappearance. The grandparents allegedly have not been allowed to see their grandchildren.

If the bill becomes law, grandparents in Florida may get the right to petition a court to get visitation with their grandchildren and build or continue to build the bond between each other. The legal issues surrounding this sensitive and emotional area of law may overwhelm families, and they should keep themselves apprised of the constantly-changing nature of these laws.

Source: CFNews13, "Grandparents rights bill based on Michelle Parker case," Dec. 7, 2012

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