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House Bill 789 (HB789) is accompanied in the Senate by Senate Bill 750. The bills are currently identical.
HB789 amends various statutes relating to visitation rights to provide great-grandparents and even step-grandparents the same rights grandparents currently receive in cases involving child dependency or the termination of parental rights. The intent of the bill is that a great-grandparent would be able to remain involved in the child's life when the parent is unable or unwilling to care for their child(ren).
HB789 will also repeal the current statute relating to grandparent visitation. Current law allows grandparents to petition the court for visitation rights in cases of divorce, when a parent abandons the child, or the child is born out of wedlock.
HB789 will create a new section of law that would allow a grandparent to petition the court for visitation when 1) the parents are deceased, missing, or in a permanent vegetative state, or 2) when a parent is deceased, missing, or in a permanent vegetative state and the other parent has been convicted of a felony or offense of violence. In order for the petition to be considered the court will determine in a preliminary hearing whether the grandparent has made a prima facie showing of parental unfitness or significant harm to the child.
Once this is shown then the court will consider the petition for grandparent visitation and will determine whether it is in the child's best interest based upon a number of factors. One of those factors will be whether the granting of the petition for visitation rights by the grandparent will cause material harm to the parent-child relationship.
Overall, HSLDA is neutral on this bill. However, we believe this bill takes the proper balance between parental rights and the interest of grandparents (and great-grandparents) in the continued involvement with their grandchildren when the family unit has broken down.
02/14/2014 (House) Referred to Justice Subcommittee; referred to Civil Justice Subcommittee; referred to Judiciary Committee; referred to Healthy Families Subcommittee.
03/04/2014 (House) Introduced; First reading
Over the years, HSLDA has represented member families in conflict with grandparents who did not like homeschooling. These grandparents would try to stop the homeschooling through various means including turning the family over to the child welfare services. Thankfully, most grandparents we come in contact with at HSLDA support home schooling and in some situations even participate in the teaching.
HB789 would limit the right of grandparents in Florida to petition the court for visitation rights. If this bill becomes law, existing statutes that allow grandparents to petition the court for visitation would be repealed and a new right to petition the court for visitation would only be permitted when a parent (or both parents) is/are missing, dead, or permanently incapacitated in a vegetative state and the other parent has been convicted of a felony or other offense of violence.
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