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Florida Grandmother Seeks Visitation with Grandchildren

On behalf of The Law Offices of Cindy D. Sackrin posted in Family Law on Tuesday, November 13, 2012.

Grandparents seeking visitation may have legal options today. A Florida grandmother is petitioning for a change to Florida state law, which would grant visitation rights to grandparents. The grandmother in this important family law case is the mother of missing woman Michelle Parker, who has been missing for nearly a year. The missing woman's former fiancé has been the only suspect in the disappearance, but has not been arrested. He retains custody of the two children he had with Michelle Parker, which he was granted following the disappearance. The petition is called Michelle's Law and the grandmother hopes it will allow her greater visitation with her two grandchildren.

Until recently, grandparents did not enjoy any legal visitation rights. Today, however, nearly every state has created some type of statute governing visitation rights for grandparents and other non-parents that may be closely involved in a child's life (foster parents, caregivers and stepparents). These laws provide non-parents with the legal right to visit the children. The goal of these laws is to promote and maintain contact between grandparents and grandchildren.

There are two types of grandparent, or non-parent, visitation laws: restrictive and permissive visitation laws. Restrictive visitation laws only allow grandparents to seek visitation if the parents are divorced or deceased. Permissive visitation laws are less restrictive and will consider a request even if the parents are married and still alive. The outcome of a request for grandparent visitation is determined based on an evaluation by the court as to the best interests of the child. As parents have the right to determine the "care, custody and control of their children," these laws have led to some constitutional challenges. As a result, courts grant a high level of deference to parents in these situations. When possible, grandparents seeking visitation also are encouraged to pursue mediation to resolve the matter.

While it is better to reach an agreement that is acceptable to all parties, grandparents seeking visitation of their grandchildren may have some other options available, as well.

Source: Gather, "Michelle Parker Case Nearing Year, 'Michelle's Law' Petitioned," Chelsea Hoffman, Oct. 27, 2012

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