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What rights do you, as a grandparent, have during a divorce?

Watching your child go through a divorce is difficult. It's even worse when you have to worry about whether your ex in-law will allow you to spend time with your grandchildren. In some cases, the right to visitation is an issue even if your child has full or partial custody of your grandchildren.

Although the state of Florida has a law on record allowing for grandparent visitation rights, the state Supreme Court has declared the law unconstitutional. Since that ruling, no new law has been adopted by the state legislature. That means that grandparents and their rights are currently in legal limbo in Florida.

In some cases, you may have certain rights. If both your child and his or her former spouse are deemed unfit, you may be able to adopt your grandchildren or have them placed with you while the parents are in custody or undergo therapy or educational programs. The same may be true if the child is abandoned by the custodial parent but the courts refuse to place the grandchildren with your child for some reason. In most divorces, however, the courts won't be able to enforce visitation rights for you as a grandparent.

The best options are usually outside of court

Your former in-law may have strong feelings about your ex-spouse, and you may be receiving the brunt of that frustration. It is more difficult to refuse a parent visitation than a grandparent. You may want to go to court, but you should explore other options first. Sometimes, you just need an attorney to argue your position in the situation. An attorney could reach out to your grandchildren's custodial parent to request visitation. You should be ready to make some compromises, such as the timing and location of the visits you are allowed to have with your grandkids.

You may dream of having them over for a holiday or spending the weekend at your summer house. In reality, you may get to take them out to lunch at a fast food place on the weekends, meet at a park or come for a visit at the home of your former in-law. Instead of fighting to have that time only on your terms, consider how compromise can benefit you. After all, you can slowly build a case for increased trust over time, which could result in a better relationship and visitation arrangements. Limited visitation is better than none at all.

An attorney can help you if adoption is an option

In addition to helping you negotiate with a custodial parent who doesn't want you to see your grandchildren, an attorney can help if you're trying to adopt or "foster" your grandchildren. The family court system is complex, so working with an experienced Florida family law attorney represents your best chance at a positive outcome to this kind of situation.

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