If a grandchild has been found dependent under Florida Chapter 39, and has been removed from the custody of a parent, a grandparent may be entitled to reasonable visitation and may request such visitation from the dependency court. Most dependency courts liberally grant and encourage grandparent visitation, absent evidence that contact with grandparent would be harmful to the child or children.
However, it must be understood that (often unfortunately) under Florida law, if the child is living with either parent and that parent is unwilling to allow grandparent visitation, grandparent’s options are extremely limited, even if, ostensibly, such contact would be good and beneficial to the child.
Details on Dependency Court
In 2015, the Florida legislature passed some legislation that showed at least some small sign that grandparent’s rights are not being totally ignored in Florida.
Under FS 752.011 a grandparent can petition a court for visitation with minor grandchildren, but ONLY if one parent is dead, missing, or in a vegetative state and the other parent is a convicted of a felony or some other offense that demonstrates he or she poses a substantial threat to the child’s welfare. Under 752.011, there are some procedures laid out that can provide a path to grandparent visitation, but only under the very limited circumstances noted above.
A grandparent (or any relative, for that matter) who believes that a particular child or children’s s health, safety and welfare have been put at risk by parents’ behavior may have options through Chapter 39 and a private Dependency Petition. In short, such a proceeding would allow the petitioner to demand that the children’s parents complete a case plan put in place by a Dependency Court that is intended to assure the health and welfare of the child.
Know Your Rights as a Grandparent
A private dependency petition is a very serious and involved, and quite frankly, an expensive matter that should not and cannot be entered into lightly.
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