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Debate over grandparents' visitation rights

In Florida's neighboring state of Georgia, a unanimous House of Representatives approved legislation that would allow for family court judges to grant visitation rights to grandparents. This bill is now being sent over to the Georgia State Senate for approval.

If passed, the legislation would allow judges to take into consideration how much a grandparent contributed towards a child's support and what percentage of the time the child stayed at their grandparents' home. Obviously judges would need to take into consideration the parents' wishes, though the court would ultimately have the final say.

In Florida, grandparents can petition the court for temporary or concurrent custody, but without parental approval such petitions will face a high standard of proof. As in all child custody matters, it is the child's best interests that will determine whether such a petition will or will not be granted. A grandparent would have to show the parents are in some way unfit to raise the child.

There are other ways of allowing grandparent visitation that possibly does not involve a court appearance. However, it would be best to consult with a lawyer experienced in the area of family law to make a determination as to what would be the best course to take.

Since the United States Supreme Court had recently declined to hear a case concerning the rights of grandparents to visit their grandchildren, it appears that it is being left up to states to decide on this issue. However, since a case did make it all the way to the highest court we can assume that this is an issue that will continue to be debated into the future.

Source: Rome News-Tribune, "House gives grandparents visitation rights," March 7, 2012

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