TALLAHASSEE – In a case that highlights the continuing debate over the rights of grandparents, the Florida Supreme Court is reviewing the case of a mom who has refused her late husband's parents the chance to see their grandchildren even though a Colorado court had previously awarded them three weeks of visitation a year.
does not favor the arguments put forward by the grandparents in this particular case, Richard Kent, a family lawyer
and partner with the firm Meyers Breiner & Kent LLP in Connecticut told the Florida Record.
A 2000 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Troxel v. Granville “took away whatever rights and forces grandparents to prove they have what
is tantamount to a parent-child (relationship) with the grandchild in order to petition for
visitation rights," Kent said.
In Troxel v. Granville, Jenifer and Gary Troxel petitioned for the right to visit the children
of their late son. The court ruled in favor
of the mother, Tomie Granville, stating that, “the interest of parents in the
care, custody, and control of their children--is perhaps the oldest of the
fundamental liberty interests recognized by this court."
“Florida law is
even more stringent than Troxel,” Kent said.
Senate Bill 368, which was signed into law in July 2015 by Gov. Rick Scott, however, gives
grandparents the right to petition for visitation if the parents of the child are “deceased, missing, or in a persistent
vegetative state, or whose one parent is deceased.” Once the grandparents put
forth their petition, the bill states that it may award visitation rights if
they find “clear
and convincing evidence that a parent is unfit or that there is significant
harm to the child, that visitation is in the best interest of the minor child,
and that the visitation will not materially harm the parent-child
Jamie B. Moses, the attorney for the mother, has been adamant that the
courts will side with her client.
Constitution affords parents the right to privacy and complete autonomy in
child-rearing," Moses told WCTV earlier this month. "And the Colorado visitation order violates that. Period.”
Andrew Windle, the lawyer for
the grandparents, told WCTV that if the Florida court decided to
vote in favor of the mother, it would “allow Florida to harbor people who want
to contravene law implemented by other states that was appropriately applied to
them in a fair and just proceeding.”
Kent believes the main issue
that will be looked at by the state Supreme Court is whether Florida
law overrides Colorado law. Because the mother lives in Florida, its “statutory
scheme” grants grandparents limited visitation rights, Kent said that the
“court will have to rule whether or not it is willing to accept the statutory
scheme and public policy of Colorado.”
The Florida Supreme Court is
not expected to make a decision until later this year.