Navigating the Divorce of Adult Children
Divorce is hard on everyone remotely connected with the couple, and the closer the connection, the more difficult it is to accept the end of the marriage and how it will affect relationships forever. The parents of adult children getting divorced are particularly affected by this decision, and will likely experience profound sadness and worry for their children and grandchildren. They may even feel compelled to move their child and grandchild into their home as the transition is in progress, but grandchildren often become a focus of concern because the negative impact divorce frequently has on the young and the desire to maintain a connection with them. Navigating the divorce of adult children presents additional difficulties, in terms of responding to the needs and desires of the adult children without tripping any boundaries. When it comes to grandchildren, this balance is especially hard to strike, and if the grandchild’s parent decides to limit access to the child, the impact can be devastating. The special bond between grandparents and their grandchildren is important and worth nurturing, but the rights of the child’s parents, and how the law views grandparent involvement in this relationship, control the ability of a grandparent to respond to decisions they do not like.
Generally, the law gives a child’s parents great deference in choosing who may see him/her, and this control is considered a crucial parental right that courts are reluctant to question or change. However, a certain level of special treatment is extended to grandparents, and in limited situations, they can petition a court for the right to see the child. Otherwise, a parent has broad discretion to block a person from seeing the child, including grandparents. Further, Florida’s grandparent visitation statute is quite limited in scope, so it will apply in just a select number of situations. Specifically, a grandparent is permitted to petition for visitation if one of the following is true:
- Both parents are deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state; or
- One parent is deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state and the other parent was convicted of a felony or other offense that indicates he/she would pose a danger to the child.
Essentially, the grandparent will need to prove parental unfitness or substantial harm to the child to win a visitation petition if parent is still present, which is an extremely high bar to meet. In addition, the best interests of the child will still need to be served by the visitation, and it cannot materially interfere with the parent-child relationship. Overall, unless there are extreme circumstances, grandparents will have little chance of success on this end.
The other option is to sue for custody, which also presents its own issues of complication. If a grandparent wants the child removed from the parent’s care, the biggest issue will be showing he/she has standing (a right to sue). If the grandparent was the child’s caregiver for an extended period of time and the parent was generally uninvolved, or the parent can be shown to be unfit or abusive, a court may allow them to pursue custody. Similar to the above, the change must be in the best interests of the child, and court will look at the quality of all the relationships, the environment offered at the grandparent’s home, and likely impact on the child, among other related factors to make this decision.
In any attempt to assert rights as a grandparent, the services of a family law attorney are crucial, and one should be consulted before any legal action is taken.
Keeping a relationship with your grandchild should be the goal, and if you think blocking access is hurting your grandchild, talk to the Port St. Lucie divorce attorneys at Baginski Brandt & Brandt about your options. We are dedicated to providing clients a customized approach to get the best results. Contact our family law attorneys at 772-466-0707 for a confidential consultation.