The Rights Grandparents Have In Family Law
By Orlando Family Law Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias
Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2011
Grandparents Have Some Legal Options
Grandparents in Florida have some legal options in relation their grandchildren, under some circumstances, contrary to popular belief. While biological parents and their children occupy most of a family law attorney’s attention, grandparents occasionally enter the picture. Sometimes, the child is living with the grandparents due to the biological parents’ present inability to provide adequate care. About once per month I receive a call from a grandparent concerned about his or her grandchild’s well-being.
If you are a grandparent in this situation, here is a brief overview of the two scenarios that AAA Family Law can help you with:
Temporary Custody By An Extended Family Member With Parental Consent
Under Chapter 751, Florida Statutes, an “extended family member” (which includes grandparents) can petition a circuit court for temporary custody of a child. The biological parents may consent to the grandparents assuming temporary custody.
It should also be mentioned that even if the grandparents are granted temporary custody, this does not terminate the biological parent’s rights. In fact, if the parents stabilize their life situations to the degree that they can be “fit” parents, they can petition the court to terminate the grandparents’ temporary custody. Keep in mind that “fit” roughly translates to “barely adequate.” Thus, temporary custody by an extended family member usually ends up being, well, temporary.
Custody By An Extended Family Member Without Parental Consent
However, if either biological parent objects to the grandparents assuming this custody, they must prove that the parents are actually “unfit”.
The finding of unfit parents is much more difficult to achieve than simply showing that it is in the “best interests” of the child to live with the grandparents. The biological parents must have either abandoned, abused, or neglected their children. Demonstrating that the grandparents would simply be better caregivers does not suffice.
I emphasize this because grandparents have also called my office merely to express their disapproval of how their son or daughter raises their grandchildren. They want to know what can be done. Unless the parents have abandoned, abused, or neglected their children, I tell them to just advise the younger generation how to be better parents. Florida respects the right of biological parents to raise their children free from outside interference (within reason).
Adoption By Relatives With Parental Consent
Chapter 63, Florida Statutes provides a simplified mechanism for grandparents to adopt their grandchild. If both biological parents consent to the grandparent and/or step-grandparent adopting the child, all that is needed is the filing of the written consents, the appropriate documents, and a short, uncontested final adoption hearing. These hearings, in contrast to most family law hearings, usually result in happy endings for everybody involved.
However, unlike temporary custody orders, adoptions are forever. Once the grandparents obtain the adoption judgment, the parents’ rights to their child are permanently terminated. Obviously, both the biological parents and the grandparents must seriously ponder this finality before pursuing an adoption.
How AAA Family Law Can Help
If you’re a grandparent with questions about your rights, call AAA Family Law at 407-260-6001 and schedule an initial consultation with me. At the consultation: (a) you will explain your situation regarding your son or daughter and your grandchildren, (b) I will explain what can be done under Florida family law and, if applicable, outline a plan of legal action. The I will quote you a fixed retainer fee (not an unpredictable hourly rate).
Our attorney retainer fees for cases of custody actions by extended family members range between $2,100 and $3,000 depending on their level of complexity. See Family Lawyer Retainer Fees for more information.
AAA Family Law can represent you from the first hearing the trial and, if needed any appeals to the Florida District Courts of Appeal.
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