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Thursday, February 8,2018

Grandparents’ Day

By Frank J. Morelli, Esq.  

After a half-century of marriage to the same woman who gave birth to our daughter, we have three lovely grandchildren. For us visitation is not an issue since we literally live a stone’s throw from them. Our grandchildren walk over to visit us often, but for some grandparents this is not the case.


What can you do if your daughter, son or in-law parent will not allow you to see your grandchildren?

Given the large population of seasoned voters in Florida is it not surprising that our legislators are working overtime to try to fix that problem. The balance is between the parent’s right of privacy and what is best for the grandchildren.

Frank J. Morelli, Esq. is a retired judge and is currently a Boca Raton trial attorney in personal injury litigation and workers’ compensation claims for the injured. He has 40 years of experience and has been licensed in five states including Florida. You may contact Frank Morelli at 954-500-3733 or

Without a law passed by the legislature grandparents have no right to visit with the grandchildren without their parent’s consent; but for many years now the Florida legislature and the court system have been fighting a duel.

Generally, the basis for allowing grandparents to visit with the grandchildren has little to do with whether grandparent should be able to visit, but rather the focus is on the grandchildren, and what is “ best ” for them . O f course, what is best for the grandchildren depends on who the judge is hearing the case. There are many fine judges, in fact I served for 10 years as judge of a lower court of criminal jurisdiction and often in relatively minor cases I had to determine what sentence was “best” suited to the crime for which the perpetrator was convicted. It is an awesome responsibility which should not be taken lightly.

The right of privacy of a parent to raise a child is considered a fundamental right, but the constitution of the United Sates does not expressly grant such a right. Without getting into a long discussion of Constitutional Law, basically the Supreme Court of the United States has held that the 14 th Amendment “due process” clause gives parents the right to deny grandparent visitation. The Florida Constitution is more definitive and provides greater privacy rights.

The Florida legislature has passed several laws which attempt to grant visitation privileges to grandparents. For example, a parent in the military who has been deployed or assigned for more than 30 days away from the family may grant grandparents visitation rights even if the civilian parent objects, unless the civilian parent can show that it is not in the child’s best interest. Grandparent visitation of a minor child is also permitted by a Florida statute when one parent is deceased, missing or in a vegetative state, and the other parent has been convicted of a felony or an offense of violence that poses a threat to the child.

The circumstances that permit grandparents to petition the courts for visitation with their grandchildren are very limited. Fortunately, many families share a common bond or faith and grandparent visitation is not only permitted but welcomed. Grandparents are a valuable resource for busy moms and parents who spend most of the day working and not available to care for the needs of their children. While day-care is sometimes the only choice that parents have, still children are blessed to have a grandparent available to care for them while their parents are away. Thank you, reader, and have a Happy Herald day, because they do keep us young and sometimes exhausted - but it is all good.


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