Florida, home to millions of grandparents, is ironically one of the toughest states with regard to winning grandparent visitation. Florida is aggressive in statutorily protecting the privacy rights of its citizens, and the courts have repeatedly interpreted requests for visitation from grandparents as assaults on parental privacy. While in many states the 2000 Supreme Court case of Troxel v. Granville made grandparent visitation harder to obtain, in Florida this process was already well underway.
In 1980 a privacy amendment was added to Florida's constitution. It reads, "Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from government intrusion into his private life except as otherwise provided herein." In the 1996 case of Beagle v. Beagle, the court decided that the state could not intervene to award grandparent visitation over the protests of parents unless failing to award visitation would be harmful to the child. A 1998 case, Von Eiff v. Azicri, involved a family in which the mother was deceased. The father had remarried and had stopped the parents of the deceased from visiting. The court applied the same standard as had been applied in Beagle v. Beagle, ruling that to intervene would be to violate parental privacy, declaring unconstitutional that part of the Florida statute that gives grandparents the right to sue for visitation in the case of a deceased parent. The court ruled that it was wrong to differentiate between "the fundamental rights of privacy of a natural parent in an intact family and the fundamental rights of privacy of a widowed parent.” In addition, the court stated that by remarrying, the surviving parent had created an intact family, which had every right to deny visitation.
Other court decisions have chipped away at the grandparent visitation statutes. The law as it now stands states that grandparents may sue for visitation only if the parents have divorced, a parent has deserted the child or the child was born out of wedlock. Most observers, however, say that these statutes are worthless when taken with case law. Grandparents seeking visitation rights in Florida must certainly seek the advice of a lawyer before deciding whether to proceed with a petition.The existing statutes instruct the courts to consider a lengthy list of factors in determining the best interests of the child. These factors include the willingness of the grandparent or grandparents to encourage a close relationship between the child and the parent or parents, the length and quality of the prior relationship between the child and the grandparent, the child's preference when he or she is old enough to express it, the mental and physical health of the child, the mental and physical health of the grandparent or grandparents and any other relevant factors. Great-grandparents are considered to have the same rights as grandparents. Adoption terminates grandparent visitation rights unless a stepparent adopts the child.
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