Do Grandparents Have Rights?

In the intricate world of family law, a common question often asked is whether grandparents have custody or timesharing rights during a dissolution of marriage in Florida. The reality is that under Florida law, grandparents do not automatically possess inherent rights to custody or timesharing when their grandchildren’s parents are going through a divorce or separation.

Grandparents undoubtedly hold a special place in the lives of their grandchildren, providing invaluable love, support, and stability. However, when parents divorce, the legal process predominantly revolves around the rights of the parents and the best interests of the children. In Florida, the law does not inherently grant grandparents the legal right to seek custody or visitation (timesharing) of their grandchildren during divorce proceedings.

It’s essential to understand that Florida family courts prioritize parental rights when determining custody and timesharing arrangements. The court will evaluate various factors to establish what is in the best interests of the child, which may include:

  • Parental Fitness: Assessing each parent’s ability to meet the child’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs.
  • Historical Caregiving Relationship: Considering the historical relationship between the child and the grandparents, especially if the grandparents have been significantly involved in caregiving.
  • Evidence of Harm or Neglect: Examining any evidence of harm or neglect by a parent and its potential impact on custody decisions.
  • Child’s Preference: Taking into account the child’s age and maturity level, and considering their preferences.

The Impact of the “Markel Act” (HB 1119)

In 2022, Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 1119, also known as the “Markel Act,” into law, which significantly impacts grandparent visitation rights in the state of Florida. This act allows for grandparent visitation only under specific circumstances, including when both parents are deceased, missing, or in a permanent vegetative state, or when one parent has been convicted of homicide against the other. Prior to this legislation, grandparents had very limited legal options in Florida.

In conclusion, grandparents do not automatically possess custody or timesharing rights in Florida. While the recent enactment of the “Markel Act” (HB 1119) has expanded legal options for grandparents seeking visitation, this is only under specific circumstances. It is critical for grandparents navigating these challenges to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney to understand their legal rights and options.

For personalized legal advice or more information about grandparent rights and family law in Florida, please reach out to our experienced legal team at Johnson Ritchey Family Law Firm. We are here to provide guidance and s