If the parent or guardian of your grandchildren is withholding the children from you, you may have rights to seek visitation through the court. But, it is far from automatic.
In fact, Florida law may allow you to petition for visitation if your grandchildren’s parents, or one of them, fall under categories including the following:
- In a coma-type state
However, if only one parent is unfortunately as noted above, but the other is not, then that other parent must fall under certain criteria. He or she must be the subject of a conviction of a felony or a criminal level of offense such that there is a threat to the child’s welfare.
Preliminary hearing to show evidence of unfitness
If you have reason to pursue visitation after considering the above, and there is an existing parent you believe to be unfit, the first thing you will do after filing your petition is attend a hearing. At that hearing, you must seek to make a prima facie case of that parent’s unfitness.
If the court does not find it, it will dismiss your case. It also has the power to order you to pay the attorney fees and court costs of the other parent if you cannot make a basic showing of unfitness.
If you succeed in showing evidence of unfitness or that there is significant harm to the child, the court will move on to possibly assign a guardian ad litem for the children. It will then send the matter to family mediation for a hoped-for resolution regarding your grandparent visitation request. If family mediation is not successful, the next step is a final hearing.
Final hearing requires clear and convincing evidence
At the final hearing, you have the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the parent is unfit or that the child is in danger of significant harm. It must also find that visitation with you is in the best interest of the children and that you having visitation rights will not damage the parent’s relationship with the child in any pertinent way.