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Florida’s neighboring state of Georgia has recently passed a house bill that would allow grandparents to petition for the court ordered rights of grandparents to be allowed to visit their grandchildren. This bill is similar to legislation proposed or passed on other states that would enhance the non-parental custody and visitation rights of grandparents.

Such a bill would merely allow judges more flexibility in awarding visitation and custodial rights to grandparents. Since the involvement of grandparents in a child’s life has been argued to be vital under certain circumstances, such legislation has been deemed to be necessary.

Too often, in the case of divorce or death of one of the parents, grandparents have been deprived of the right to see their grandchildren. However, such a problem has not been addressed by legislators across the country until the last couple of decades.

In Florida, non-parental family members are allowed to petition the courts for certain custodial rights including visitation of the grandchildren. Still, if a parent or parents do not consent to the grandparents seeing the children, there is an extremely high standard of proof required for visitation or custody rights to be granted to the grandparents. In essence, lawyers for grandparents must show that the parents of the child are “unfit” in some particular way (such as showing a pattern of abuse, abandonment or neglect).

Certainly, legislation such as that passed by the Georgia legislature may ease grandparents’ concerns. So long as judges have certain flexibility and discretion in making determinations as to what is in the best interest of the children, grandparents may have an opportunity to have their concerns addressed in court.

It’s in nobody’s best interest – especially not the child’s – to not allow the courts some leeway in making child custody determinations.

Source: Rome News-Tribune, “Gordon Co. grandparents hoping new state law paves the way to seeing their grandchildren,” June 6, 2012