Grandparents often play an essential role in their grandchildren’s lives, providing unconditional love and support. If this relationship is severed, the impact can be devastating.
If you are at risk of losing contact with your grandchildren, reach out to a dedicated family attorney. A West Palm Beach grandparent’s rights lawyer could provide valuable guidance and support during this time and advise you on your legal options. Our team appreciates the importance of the grandparent-grandchild relationship and could work on your behalf to protect it.
Grandparents’ Visitation Rights
Under the current law, grandparents in Palm Beach County do not have broad visitation rights with their grandchildren. As such, grandparents have the best chance of maintaining contact with their grandchildren by working with the children’s parents. If the grandparents and parents agree on a visitation schedule, they can avoid expensive and protracted litigation.
However, there are situations in which the parties cannot work through their differences, and a grandparent has no alternative but to seek court-ordered visitation. Even then, a judge can only order contact under two conditions:
- The minor child’s parents are deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state
- One parent is deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state, and the other parent has been convicted of a felony or other crime that threatens their child’s well-being
The Process of Seeking Visitation Rights
Under state law, grandparents face significant challenges when attempting to gain visitation rights in court. Even if one of the necessary circumstances exists, a grandparent must demonstrate at a preliminary hearing that the child’s primary parent is unfit and that lack of visitation with the grandparent would significantly harm the child. If the grandparent fails to prove these elements, a judge must dismiss their visitation petition and could order them to pay the parent’s legal fees.
After a full evidentiary hearing, if a court determines that the grandparents have demonstrated parental unfitness or harm to the child, they can award reasonable visitation to the grandparent. However, the court must specifically find, by clear and convincing evidence, that the visitation is in the child’s best interests and will not harm the parent-child relationship.
Contested grandparent visitation cases are complex and require the skill of a dedicated West Palm Beach attorney. An attorney could help a grandparent negotiate visitation or present their case to a judge.
Grandchild Custody in West Palm Beach
A grandparent’s right to custody is even more limited than their visitation rights. A family court judge can only grant custody to a grandparent if a parent puts their child in danger or is unfit.
If the family situation is so detrimental to a child that the grandparents feel they must step in, a dedicated attorney in West Palm Beach could explain their legal rights and help determine if custody is a viable option.
Grandparents’ Adoption Rights
When parents are no longer capable of caring for their children, a judge can terminate their parental rights and permit another person to adopt them. If grandparents have had a long-term, caring relationship with their grandchildren, a judge can prioritize them over other third parties and permit them to become the adoptive parents. In doing so, the court must find that the adoption serves the child’s best interests.
When grandparents adopt a grandchild, they become the child’s legal parents in every respect. They will be listed as parents on the child’s birth certificate and have the same rights and obligations as a natural parent. Accordingly, a grandparent considering adoption is well-advised to consult a capable grandparent’s rights attorney in West Palm Beach before pursuing legal action.
Consult with a West Palm Beach Grandparent’s Rights Attorney
Palm Beach County is a challenging place for grandparents to pursue visitation and custody. State laws restrict judges from ordering grandparent-grandchild contact except in very limited circumstances. Because of this, it is always best to reach out to a knowledgeable attorney before taking legal steps.
If you need help maintaining contact with your grandchildren, consult a caring West Palm Beach grandparent’s rights lawyer. Our firm’s compassionate attorneys could work tirelessly to help you maintain the important place you hold in your grandchildren’s lives. Call today to learn more.