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Child visitation laws differ from state to state

Nearly all aspects of the law are governed by a combination of local, state and federal law. But some legal fields are dominated by federal statutes, court decisions and regulations, while other times, the federal level tends to defer to the states.

Family law falls into the latter category. In general, state legislatures and courts have fairly wide latitude to decide how divorce, child custody and similar matters get decided there. This can lead to significant differences from state to state, even between states that share a border, as WKRG-TV shows.

For example, Florida enacted laws earlier this year allowing limited grandparents’ visitation rights. The rights apply when the parents of the children are both dead, missing or in a vegetative state, or if one parent meets one of these criteria and the other is convicted of a felony.

Meanwhile, up in Alabama, a law granting some visitation rights to grandparents was overturned by the state Supreme Court in 2011, which reasoned that it violated parental rights.

There are families out there where parents keep their kids away from their own parents or in-laws. They may have good reason to do so, or it may be based on bitterness or spite growing out of a difficult divorce. The best interest of the child is of paramount importance, but courts generally defer to the custodial parent’s decisions about which relatives get to see his or her children.

Still, some Florida grandparents may be able to gain visitation rights over the parent’s objections, while doing so in Alabama may not be possible.

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