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Florida Constitution Revision Commission

PUB 700442: Grandparental Rights: Standing and Visitation if Parent Is Deceased and in the Best Interest of the Child by Sharon Oliver




I am writing to request consideration for an amendment to the Florida Constitution regarding grandparental rights. As you know, Florida is one of the most restrictive states in the country regarding these rights.   My son, Eric Oliver, was a Deputy Sheriff in Nassau County, FL and  died in the line of duty November 22, 2016 ( ).    He was recently divorced and was the father of a beautiful 6 year old daughter at the time of his death.  Since birth and during the divorce we, as grandparents, assisted him with parenting and watched her when he was unavailable.  After his death, the mother was found to be mismanaging our grandchild’s inheritance and the guardianship for my son’s estate was removed from the mother and assigned to a permanent legal guardian by the courts.  The mother has not allowed us to see the child except in rare instances when we visited her at school and during several events sponsored by the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office.   According to AGA Inc., ( alienation is actually a severe form of child abuse. Our granddaughter not only lost her father at the time of his death, but also his entire family. We would respectfully like to request an amendment that would give grandparents standing and visitation rights if in the best interest of the child if one parent is deceased.    As an example, New York is one of the states that gives these rights to grandparents under extraordinary circumstances.  (see below)


The Question of Standing

Basically grandparents seeking visitation in New York must have standing to sue. NY law mentions only two situations in which grandparents may have standing, one clear-cut and one very broad. First, the law provides for grandparent visitation if at least one parent is deceased. That's the clear-cut situation. The only other condition mentioned in the statute is "where circumstances show that conditions exist which equity would see fit to intervene." This is the part that is not so clear-cut, but more enlightenment is provided in the next part of the law.

Grandparents can seek visitation when "extraordinary circumstances" exist. One such circumstance is an "extended disruption of custody." This is defined as a time when the parent voluntarily gave up "care and control" of the child and the child lived with the grandparent for a period of 24 months or more.

The law goes on to say that the court may find that "extraordinary circumstances" exist if this period of grandparent care lasted less than 24 months.

The law mentions no other extraordinary circumstances, but some courts have considered neglect or abuse by parents or substance abuse by parents as reasons to grant visitation to grandparents.