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Florida Court finds Grandparents Have Rights-So Long as Another State Said So

Grandparents often call me and ask about how they can get rights to see their grandchildren. Unfortunately, I have to advise them that in Florida grandparents have no rights to spend time with their grandchildren in the absence of parental consent, or a dependency proceeding where a court, either temporarily or thereafter permanently, strips parents of their rights to the children for health and safety issues, or sometimes award “custody” to grandparents.

Although grandparents deprived of time with their grandchildren s may be a consequence of divorce, it more often occurs after a divorce, where one of the parents then dies and the remaining parent refuses to let the parents of the deceased parent see the grandchildren.

Some other states, however, being apparently more benevolent and understanding of the love grandparents can bring into their grandchildren’s lives, do provide for grandparent visitation. A recent Florida Supreme Court decision has now paved the path for grandparents who have a judgment from another state granting them visitation with their grandchildren, to enforce that judgment if the grandchildren now live in Florida!

The case of Ledoux-Nottingham v. Downs, 42 Fla. L. Weekly S183(Fla. February 16, 2017) was the recent decision that made the change to Florida’s laws. In that case, a couple divorced in Colorado, and the following year, the ex-husband/father died. Thereafter, the parents of the deceased ex husband petitioned the Colorado court to obtain rights to see the grandchildren, which was granted. In the interim, the children and the mother/ex wife, moved to Orlando. When the grandparents went to enforce their visitation rights in Florida, the mother claimed that since Florida law did not recognize grandparental visitation, that the Colorado judgment could not be enforced in Florida and the grandparents had no rights to see the children. The Florida Supreme Court, reversing a 1999 decision to the contrary, disagreed. The Supreme Court stated that under the United States Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause, that Florida was obligated, under federal law, to recognize the Colorado judgment and allow the grandparents visitation. Thus, even though the grandparents would have been unsuccessful had they originally brought the action for visitation in Florida, because Colorado had already entered such judgment, Florida courts were obligated to recognize it and enforce it within our state.

So, if you are grandparents who have the right to see your grandchildren based on a judgment in another state, and the parents have now moved to Florida, you can enforce those rights here!

But, really parents, if your former in-laws are okay people (and remember, they raised the person you had children with) let them see their grandchildren. As long as they do not pose a safety threat, why deprive your children of a grandparent’s love just because you don’t like these people.

If she could see her now

A grandparent’s love is something special

So much can be resolved in family law without litigation, if people just take a step back and try to work things out…especially for their children’s best interest.

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