Grandparents Right To Visitation,Time-sharing, and Full Faith and Credit

 In Law Planet

grandparentSeveral years ago the Florida legislature attempted to give grandparents the right to seek visitation and time-sharing with their grandchildren. Unfortunately, Florida’s judicial system declared the law unconstitutional as violating the parents’ rights to privacy. From that point forward,  in Florida, grandparents have not been able to seek visitation or time-sharing with their grandchildren. However, what happens when another jurisdiction allows for grandparent visitation rights and enters a final judgment providing for such? Can that final judgment be enforced in Florida?

That specific question was answered in the affirmative in a recent Florida 5th District Court of Appeal opinion. Ledoux-Nottingham v. Downs and Downs involves the efforts of a grandparent to enforce visitation rights granted by a Colorado court shortly before the death of the children’s parents. The surviving mother moved to Florida and cut off any further contact between the grandparents and her children.

The grandparents filed an enforcement action seeking visitation with the children. The mother filed a separate action in Florida to register the Colorado final judgment and for a judicial determination that the grandparents (presumably the parents of the deceased father) had no rights to visit with the children. The Colorado court rendered its final order first determining that it was in the best interest of the minor children for them to have visitation and awarded three weeks of visitation and reasonable telephone contact. The mother responded by amending her petition in Florida and tried to argue that enforcement of the grandparent visitation order was unconstitutional and against public policy. In the alternative, the mother argued a substantial change in circumstances had occurred since the entry of the Colorado order and requested termination of the grandparents’ rights.

The 5th District Court of Appeal had no trouble rejecting the mother’s claims and indicated that, under United States Constitutional law, Florida courts had to give full faith and credit to the Colorado proceedings and final judgment. Since the grandparent visitation rights were valid under Colorado law that had jurisdiction over the parties at the time the final judgment was entered, Florida courts had no business interceding in the issue and trying to establish a different result. In Florida, grandparent visitation rights established by a different court jurisdiction are fully enforceable.

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