Do grandparents and other family members have visitation rights and custody rights? For some time now, there have been many questions and many misunderstandings about the rights of various family members. There is a good deal of information on the internet; however, unfortunately much of the information is not accurate. This has caused confusion on the issue.
Before we discuss this matter in detail, it is good to distinguish between custody and visitation. There are also different statutes and different portions of the population for whom the rules are different. In this blog, the focus will be on extended family members and who and how custody can be obtained of a child or children in need.
In Florida, we have Chapter 751, which is titled, “Temporary Custody of Minor Children by Extended Family.” The purpose of the statute is to allow extended family members to care for a child or children within the family structure. This provides a level of security and familiarly for children. It also helps to keep children out of the system and avoid them being declared as “dependent” children by the state. Likewise, the statute provides some legal support and assistance for family members who do step up to care for children. The family member can be awarded “temporary custody” and be granted the authority to care for a child and make decisions about school, medical issues, and the like on behalf of the child.
An extended family member is defined as is any person who is a relative within the third degree by blood or marriage to the parent; or the stepparent of a child if the stepparent is currently married to the parent of the child and is not a party in a pending divorce or other action against the parent. The extended family member must have the signed, notarized consent of the child's legal parents or he/she/they must be providing parental care for the child and they child must be presently residing with them. These cases typically arise when parents can no longer care for a child due to drug or alcohol abuse; incarceration; other criminal activity; or even extreme illness. Keep in mind, this is a form of temporary custody and once the parents are able to care for the child, the parent can petition the court to regain custody of the child.
In upcoming weeks, we will discuss military members and their ability to transfer visitation rights (timesharing rights) to their own extended family members. We will also evaluate visitation rights, and the substantial misleading information on this topic, which can be found on the internet and other sources.