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Florida law and grandparent rights to visitation

After a divorce, a sometimes overlooked consequence is the impact of the visitation and parenting plan arrangements will have on the grandparents of the couple. Child custody plans may meticulously map out all of the contact between the parents and the children, who gets which holidays and when vacations may occur, but may overlook the grandparent's relationship.

However, the parents may be so involved with their own child custody plans that they may forget that the child's grandparents may be inadvertently cut off from the children, and this may result in traumatic effect for those grandparents.

There is even a psychological name for the disorder "Parental Alienation Syndrome," which was developed to describe a situation where one parent, often in a bitter custody dispute, attacks and belittles the other parent to the child.

Sadly, its effect is not limited to just parents. It can grow to include grandparents. This often happens when one parent is dysfunctional, addicted to drugs or incarcerated. The other parent may obtain a divorce, to protect the child or children. They may also end contact with the dysfunctional parent's parents.

Some grandparents are so affected by this situation that they have formed a support group with other grandparents.

Under Florida law, grandparents have limited visitation options. A Florida statute authorizes grandparent's visitation rights, but Florida Supreme Court rulings have limited it, based on the parent's right of privacy. The Court has said, "The state may only impose that visitation over the parents' objections on a showing that failing to do so would be harmful to the child."

If the child's parents are abusive or neglectful, it may be possible for a grandparent to obtain custody, but if a parent objects, their parental rights have to be terminated. Relative placement or adoption may then be an option.

Source: bradenton.com, "Grandparents find solace with each other through new support group after losing connections with grandchildren," Dee Graham, January 21, 2013

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