A new Florida law regarding the visitation rights of grandparents has raised questions about visitation arrangements in cases where one parent is deceased, absent or in a persistent vegetative state. Under new laws, grandparents may petition the court for visitation rights if the remaining parent has been convicted of a felony or violent crime. One Florida couple asked the court for visitation rights after their daughter died, leaving their granddaughter with her biological father.
The 3-year-old grandchild had limited contact with her father since she was born, according to the grandparents. Nonetheless, the girl was sent to live with him shortly after her mother's death in 2014. The Brevard County Family Court judge dismissed the grandparents' case on the grounds that the father had never been convicted of a felony. While the man pled guilty to possession of cocaine in 1999, he served probation and adjudication was withheld, so he does not possess a felony record.
The grandparents' attorney has challenged the ruling on the grounds that there is room for argument about the acceptability of the use of a guilty plea as a conviction in cases related to visitation rights. The father's attorney claimed that she was prepared to argue for the unconstitutionality of the law as it infringes on parental rights. She also pointed out that the case raises questions of how long a conviction remains valid under this new law as well as the type of felony conviction it applies to.
This case poses many new questions for Florida custody rights as well as fathers' rights. An attorney can help a client who is seeking visitation develop a parenting plan that is in the best interest of the child.