What Rights Do Grandparents Have in Florida?


  • Approximately 40% to 50% of marriages will end in divorce.
  • Live Oak has one of the highest divorce rates in Florida, at 23%.
  • This is much higher than the statewide divorce rate of 13%.

Over 10 percent of all marriages in Florida will end in divorce. Ending a marriage can be complicated in most circumstances, and divorce can be made even more intricate and emotional when there are children involved.

Divorcing couples need not only think of themselves, but of other extended family members their children may lose relationships with as a result of the split. One of the most talked about relationships is that between grandparents and grandchildren.

Some couples value the relationship and others do not. Luckily for grandparents, each state has laws that protect their visitation rights. If a parent chooses to prohibit a child from seeing their grandparent, the older adult may seek remedy in family court.

A judge will then have discretion regarding the visitation rights of the grandparent, and it’s important to have an Orlando family law attorney by your side if you’re going through this process. Here is a brief overview of the laws in Florida.

New Law Put into Effect in 2015

According to a law that was put into effect by Governor Rick Scott in 2015, a grandparent may petition their local family court for visitation rights in certain circumstances. Those include when a parent is missing, has been killed, or is in a vegetative state. Additionally, the grandparent may petition the court of the parent has been convicted of a crime that poses a threat to the welfare or health of the child.

Specific wording in the bill includes, “Upon the filing of a petition by a grandparent for visitation, the court shall hold a preliminary hearing…the court may award reasonable visitation to the grandparent…if the court finds by a clear and convincing evidence that a parent is unfit of that there is significant harm to the child, that visitation is in the best interest of the minor child, and that the visitation will not materially harm the parent-child relationship.”

Nuances of the Law

A grandparent can only petition the court if they are barred from seeing the minor child. In other words, if they feel as though they don’t see the child enough, they cannot petition the court for additional visitation. A grandparent cannot petition the court if the custodial parent is present and acting in what they perceive to be their rights.

It is not enough that a parent will not let a child spend time with their grandparent. There must be extenuating circumstances that would allow the grandparent to seek visitation. That visitation can also be legally revoked.

If a grandparent attempts or takes the child out of state, commits acts of neglect or abuse, or commits a crime of a sexual nature against the child, all visitation may be eliminated by the court.

The Importance of Grandparents

No matter how a spouse feels about their soon-to-be ex or the ex’s family, they are urged to consider the importance of the relationships between grandparents and their grandchildren.

At the end of the day, a parent is within their rights to terminate the relationship, but it’s rarely recommended outside of special circumstances.

Here are just some ways that grandparents provide a beneficial relationship:

1) Unconditional Love

It’s important for children to know that they are loved “no matter what.” A grandparent typically offers this kind of emotional stability.

Unlike parents, a grandparent isn’t regularly tasked with the role of disciplinarian, making the relationship a different, sometimes more positive, one.

2) A Mentor

Children may be more apt to discuss their problems with their grandparents, feeling as though the relationship is a less judgmental one. Life experience qualifies grandparents as good mentors for children.

Grandparents also have the capability of approaching situations with knowledge, having either been through a specific incident themselves or having seen their own children go through it.

3) Getting to Know Their Parents

Children tend to think of their parents as old and can hardly imagine them having been young themselves.

Grandparents can offer grandchildren a unique insight into their own parents, enhancing the relationship between parent and child.

4) Family Traditions

Grandparents may be the best source of family history and traditions. Consider all the things you have learned about your family through your own grandparents.

Chances are that you spend holidays and vacations with your grandparents, keeping family traditions alive. Your children can have that same benefit.

5) Close Companionship

Small children often don’t have many friends, if only because they haven’t had the opportunity to make any. Grandparents are often the first “friends” of little ones.

Your child’s grandparents provide companionship and adventure that is way cooler than anything you can provide — in the eyes of your child, at least.

The relationship your children have with their grandparents is certainly up to you. If you believe that the relationship is a negative one or harmful to your child in some way, you are well within your rights to terminate it.

It’s important, however, that you be sure you aren’t ending the relationship out of spite for your ex. Not liking someone doesn’t mean that you have to deprive your child of this important relationship.

Talk to an Orlando Family Law Attorney Today

If you are interested in pursuing visitation with your grandchild, reach out to our Orlando family law attorneys. We will review the details of your situation at no cost to you and advise you of the best course of action.

We can help you earn visitation rights in certain circumstances provided they are in line with current law. Call today to schedule your consultation.

Andrew Nickolaou

Andrew Nickolaou, Esq., B.C.S., is a founding partner at Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou, P.A. He practices almost exclusively in divorce, marital and family law. Andrew also handles record expungements and sealings. If you have questions about this article, contact Andrew today by clicking here.