The Rights of Grandparents In Family Law
By Orlando Family Law Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias
Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2011
Grandparents Have Some Legal Options Regarding Their Grandchildren
Under some circumstances, grandparents in Florida have some legal options in relation their grandchildren. 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 concerned about your grandchildren's well being, here is a brief overview of the three situations where a family law attorney can help you:
(1) 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 family court for temporary custody of a child. The biological parents may consent to having the grandparents assume 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's 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 parents” roughly translates to “barely adequate parents.” Thus, temporary custody by an extended family member usually ends up being, well, temporary.
(2) 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”.
A family court 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 sons or daughters raise 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).
(3) 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. Also read the page Adoptions By Relatives.
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 are a grandparent with questions about custody or adoption of your children, call AAA Family Law at (407) 260-6001 and schedule an initial consultation with me. At the consultation: (1) you will explain your situation regarding your son or daughter and your grandchildren, (2) I will explain what can be done under Florida family law and, if applicable, (3) outline a plan of legal action. Then I will quote you a fixed retainer fee (not an hourly rate whose total is unpredictable).
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. Our attorney retainer fees for an uncontested adoption range from $1,200 to $1,500, depending on its level of complexity. See Family Lawyer Retainer Fees for more information on the pricing of our services.
AAA Family Law can represent you from your first hearing, mediation or trial to any appeals to the Florida District Courts of Appeals.
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