Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights in Florida?

Grandparents in Florida may be able to get court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren over parental objections—but only in very limited circumstances.

By , Attorney · UC Berkeley School of Law
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Grandparents play a unique role in their grandchildren's lives. Some parents embrace the help and wisdom that grandparents can provide. But in other instances, hard feelings or a grandparent's lifestyle might cause parents to limit or prevent visitation altogether.

When Florida parents are preventing visits, grandparents may request court-ordered visitation in only very limited situations. A judge's ultimate decision will depend on the unique circumstances of your case. This article provides an overview of grandparent visitation and custody rights in Florida.

When Grandparents Can Request Visitation in Florida

Under Florida law, grandparents (including great-grandparents) may request court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren only if:

  • both of the parents are deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state, or
  • one of the parents is deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state, and the other parent has been convicted of a felony or a violent crime that poses a "substantial threat of harm" to the child.

Parents are considered missing if their whereabouts aren't known for at least 90 days, despite a diligent search including inquiries with relatives, area hospitals, recent employers, law enforcement and other relevant governmental agencies, utilities, and the postal service, as well as searching a database for locating people.

(Fla. Stat. §§ 752.001, 752.011 (2023).)

How to Request Grandparent Visitation in Florida

If you're a grandparent or great-grandparent who meets Florida's threshold requirements (discussed above) for requesting court-ordered visitation, you'll need to file a Petition for Grandparent Visitation With Minor Child(ren) form in the family court of the judicial circuit for the county where the child lives. Check with the court clerk to see if you need to fill out other forms, such as a cover sheet.

The clerk will also let you know what the filing fee will be. If you can't afford to pay the fee, ask the clerk for a form to request assistance with the filing fee.

You'll also have to serve the child's parents with the court papers you've filed. (Fla. Stat. § 752.02 (2023).)

How Florida Judges Decide on Grandparents' Visitation Requests

Once you've filed and served your petition for grandparent visitation, you'll need to go through several steps before a final decision.

The Preliminary Hearing

First, the judge will hold a preliminary hearing to examine whether the grandparent has made a prima facie case (presented sufficient evidence) that a parent is unfit or there's significant harm to the child. If not, the judge will dismiss the case.


If the petition makes it through the preliminary hearing, the judge will then order the parent and grandparent(s) to participate in family mediation (as long as those services are available in the judicial circuit).

Meanwhile, the judge may appoint a guardian ad litem to advocate for the child.

(Fla. Stat. §§ 752.011(1), (3), 752.015 (2023).)

Final Hearing

If the family can't resolve the dispute over grandparent visitation in mediation, the next step is a final hearing. After that hearing, the judge may award reasonable visiation to the grandparent(s) only if there's clear and convincing evidence that all of the following are true:

  • a parent is unfit or there's significant harm to the child
  • visitation with the grandparent(s) would be in the child's best interests, and
  • that visitation wouldn't materially harm the parent-child relationship.

(Fla. Stat. § 752.011(4) (2023).)

How Florida Judges Decide Whether Grandparent Visitation Is in the Child's Best Interests

When judges are deciding whether grandparent visitation would be in the child's best interests, Florida law requires them to consider all of the circumstances that affect the child's mental and emotional well-being, including:

  • the love, affection, and other emotional ties between the child and the grandparent (including ties resulting from a previous relationship that the parent allowed)
  • the length and quality of the grandparent's previous relationship with the child, including how much the grandparent provided regular care and support
  • whether the grandparent established ongoing personal contact with the child before a parent died, went missing, or entered a vegetative state
  • the parent's reasons for ending contact or visitation between the child and the grandparent
  • whether the child has suffered significant mental or emotional harm as a result of the disruption in the family unit
  • whether the child received support and stability from the grandparent, and whether continuing that support and stability is likely to prevent further harm
  • whether the child has experienced actual or threatened mental injury
  • the child's and grandparent's current mental, physical, and emotional health
  • the recommendations of the child's guardian ad litem (if one was appointed)
  • the results of any psychological evaluation of the child
  • the child's wishes (if the child is mature enough to express a preference), and
  • a deceased parent's written testamentary statement regarding visitation with the grandparent (although the absence of such a statement won't be evidence that the parent would've objected to the visitation).

(Fla. Stat. § 752.011(5) (2023).)

How Florida Judges Decide Whether Grandparent Visitation Would Materially Harm the Parent-Child Relationship

Judges will also look at all of the relevant circumstances when deciding whether grandparent visitation would materially harm the parent-child relationship, including:

  • whether the parent and grandparent(s) have had previous disputes about the child's care and upbringing
  • why the parent ended contact between the child and the grandparent
  • whether visitation with the grandparent would interfere with or compromise the parent's authority
  • whether visitation can be arranged in a way that doesn't detract from the parent-child relationship
  • whether the grandparent is seeking visitation for the primary purpose of continuing or establishing a relationship with the child
  • whether the visitation would expose the child to conduct, moral standards, experiences, or other factors that are inconsistent with the parent's influences
  • the nature of the relationship between the child's parent and the grandparent, and
  • the psychological toll of visitation disputes on the child.

(Fla. Stat. § 752.011(6) (2023).)

Can Grandparent Visitation Orders Be Modified in Florida?

As with all visitation and custody orders, judges may modify orders for grandparent visitation order if the person making the request can prove that:

  • there's been a substantial change in circumstances since the previous order was issued, and
  • modification of visitation would be in the child's best interests.

(Fla. Stat. § 752.011(9) (2023).)

A parent and grandparent may also also agree on changes to the order. For example, they might agree that a visit once a month would work better than two times a month. But they'll need to submit their written, signed agreement to the court. The judge will usually approve the agreement and issue a modified order as long as it appears to be in the child's best interests.

How Often Can Grandparents Request Visitation?

Florida law limits how soon grandparents may request visitation after a previous request was denied. They may file a petition only once during any two-year period. The judge might make an exception to this rule if a grandparent can demonstrate that the child is suffering or might suffer mental or emotional harm caused by a parental decision to deny visitation—but only if that harm didn't exist when the grandparent filed an earlier request. (Fla. Stat. § 752.011(10) (2023).)

How Does Adoption Affect a Grandparent's Rights?

Adoption terminates all legal ties between a child and biological parents or grandparents, unless a stepparent or close relative adopts the child. In those situations, a grandparent might be entitled to visitation if a grandparent visitation order was in place before the adoption. However, a judge may terminate a grandparent visitation order when a stepparent or biological parent requests it, unless the grandparent can show actual harm. (Fla. Stat. § 752.071 (2023).)

What Can You Do If Your Grandchildren's Parents Won't Let You Visit?

If your grandchild's parents have kept you from seeing the child but you're still on speaking terms, your first step should be to ask if they would be willing to participate in mediation. Although custody mediation is usually used by parents who can't agree with each other about parenting time, it could also help parents and grandparents work out their differences about visitation. Sometimes, these conflicts arise from misunderstandings and communication problems. In those situations, a trained, neutral mediator can help people sort out the issues and identify possible solutions.

But when the parents refuse to go to mediation (or mediation doesn't work), you should know that it can be difficult to get court-ordered visitation. No matter what you think about a parent's choices, the law strongly favors their right to decide what's best for their child. The Florida Supreme Court has made it clear that grandparents' rights are always secondary to the rights of a parent or stepparent. Parents have a fundamental right to privacy in raising their own children, and grandparents don't have a right to visit grandchildren when the child's parents oppose the visitation—unless a judge orders otherwise. (G.S. v. T.B., 985 So.2d 978 (Fla. 2008).)

Even if the child has only one available parent, the judge will usually favor that parent's decisions unless you have strong evidence that the parent is unfit or harming the child. So if you believe you can overcome the hurdles in Florida law, you should strongly consider speaking with a local family law attorney who evaluate your situation and tell you whether you have a fighting chance of being successful with a petition for grandparent visitation.

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