Florida Senate - 2015              PROPOSED COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE
       Bill No. SB 368
       Proposed Committee Substitute by the Committee on Fiscal Policy
       (Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice)
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to the rights of grandparents;
    3         amending s. 752.001, F.S.; providing definitions;
    4         repealing s. 752.01, F.S., relating to actions by a
    5         grandparent for visitation rights; creating s.
    6         752.011, F.S.; authorizing the grandparent of a minor
    7         child to petition a court for visitation under certain
    8         circumstances; requiring a preliminary hearing;
    9         providing for the payment of attorney fees and costs
   10         by a petitioner who fails to make a prima facie
   11         showing of harm; authorizing grandparent visitation if
   12         the court makes specified findings; providing factors
   13         for court consideration; providing applicability of
   14         the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement
   15         Act; encouraging the consolidation of certain
   16         concurrent actions; providing for modification of an
   17         order awarding grandparent visitation; limiting the
   18         frequency of actions seeking visitation; limiting
   19         applicability to a minor child placed for adoption;
   20         providing for venue; repealing s. 752.07, F.S.,
   21         relating to the effect of adoption of a child by a
   22         stepparent on grandparent visitation rights; creating
   23         s. 752.071, F.S.; providing conditions under which a
   24         court may terminate a grandparent visitation order
   25         upon adoption of a minor child by a stepparent or
   26         close relative; amending s. 752.015, F.S.; conforming
   27         provisions and cross-references to changes made by the
   28         act; providing an effective date.
   30  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   32         Section 1. Section 752.001, Florida Statutes, is amended to
   33  read:
   34         752.001 Definitions.—As used in For purposes of this
   35  chapter, the term:
   36         (1) “Grandparent” shall include great-grandparent.
   37         (2) “Missing” means having whereabouts which are unknown
   38  for a period of at least 90 days and not being able to be
   39  located after a diligent search and inquiry. Such search and
   40  inquiry for a missing person must include, at a minimum,
   41  inquiries of all relatives of the person who can reasonably be
   42  identified by the petitioner, inquiries of hospitals in the
   43  areas where the person last resided, inquiries of the person’s
   44  recent employers, inquiries of state and federal agencies likely
   45  to have information about the person, inquiries of appropriate
   46  utility and postal providers, a thorough search of at least one
   47  electronic database specifically designed for locating persons,
   48  and inquiries of appropriate law enforcement agencies.
   49         (3) “Persistent vegetative state” has the same meaning as
   50  provided in s. 765.101(12).
   51         Section 2. Section 752.01, Florida Statutes, is repealed.
   52         Section 3. Section 752.011, Florida Statutes, is created to
   53  read:
   54         752.011 Petition for grandparent visitation with a minor
   55  child.—A grandparent of a minor child whose parents are
   56  deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state, or whose
   57  one parent is deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative
   58  state and whose other parent has been convicted of a felony or
   59  an offense of violence evincing behavior that poses a
   60  substantial threat of harm to the minor child’s health or
   61  welfare, may petition the court for court-ordered visitation
   62  with the grandchild under this section.
   63         (1) Upon the filing of a petition by a grandparent for
   64  visitation, the court shall hold a preliminary hearing to
   65  determine whether the petitioner has made a prima facie showing
   66  of parental unfitness or significant harm to the child. Absent
   67  such a showing, the court shall dismiss the petition and may
   68  award reasonable attorney fees and costs to be paid by the
   69  petitioner to the respondent.
   70         (2) If the court finds that there is prima facie evidence
   71  that a parent is unfit or that there is significant harm to the
   72  child, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem and shall refer
   73  the matter to family mediation as provided in s. 752.015. If
   74  family mediation does not successfully resolve the issue of
   75  grandparent visitation, the court shall proceed with a final
   76  hearing.
   77         (3) After conducting a final hearing on the issue of
   78  visitation, the court may award reasonable visitation to the
   79  grandparent with respect to the minor child if the court finds
   80  by clear and convincing evidence that a parent is unfit or that
   81  there is significant harm to the child, that visitation is in
   82  the best interest of the minor child, and that the visitation
   83  will not materially harm the parent-child relationship.
   84         (4) In assessing the best interest of the child under
   85  subsection (3), the court shall consider the totality of the
   86  circumstances affecting the mental and emotional well-being of
   87  the minor child, including:
   88         (a) The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing
   89  between the minor child and the grandparent, including those
   90  resulting from the relationship that had been previously allowed
   91  by the child’s parent.
   92         (b) The length and quality of the previous relationship
   93  between the minor child and the grandparent, including the
   94  extent to which the grandparent was involved in providing
   95  regular care and support for the child.
   96         (c) Whether the grandparent established ongoing personal
   97  contact with the minor child before the death of the parent,
   98  before the onset of the parent’s persistent vegetative state, or
   99  before the parent was missing.
  100         (d) The reasons cited by the respondent parent in ending
  101  contact or visitation between the minor child and the
  102  grandparent.
  103         (e) Whether there has been significant and demonstrable
  104  mental or emotional harm to the minor child as a result of the
  105  disruption in the family unit, whether the child derived support
  106  and stability from the grandparent, and whether the continuation
  107  of such support and stability is likely to prevent further harm.
  108         (f) The existence or threat to the minor child of mental
  109  injury as defined in s. 39.01.
  110         (g) The present mental, physical, and emotional health of
  111  the minor child.
  112         (h) The present mental, physical, and emotional health of
  113  the grandparent.
  114         (i) The recommendations of the minor child’s guardian ad
  115  litem, if one is appointed.
  116         (j) The result of any psychological evaluation of the minor
  117  child.
  118         (k) The preference of the minor child if the child is
  119  determined to be of sufficient maturity to express a preference.
  120         (l) A written testamentary statement by the deceased parent
  121  regarding visitation with the grandparent. The absence of a
  122  testamentary statement is not deemed to provide evidence that
  123  the deceased or missing parent or parent in a persistent
  124  vegetative state would have objected to the requested
  125  visitation.
  126         (m) Other factors that the court considers necessary to
  127  making its determination.
  128         (5) In assessing material harm to the parent-child
  129  relationship under subsection (3), the court shall consider the
  130  totality of the circumstances affecting the parent-child
  131  relationship, including:
  132         (a) Whether there have been previous disputes between the
  133  grandparent and the parent over childrearing or other matters
  134  related to the care and upbringing of the minor child.
  135         (b) Whether visitation would materially interfere with or
  136  compromise parental authority.
  137         (c) Whether visitation can be arranged in a manner that
  138  does not materially detract from the parent-child relationship,
  139  including the quantity of time available for enjoyment of the
  140  parent-child relationship and any other consideration related to
  141  disruption of the schedule and routine of the parent and the
  142  minor child.
  143         (d) Whether visitation is being sought for the primary
  144  purpose of continuing or establishing a relationship with the
  145  minor child with the intent that the child benefit from the
  146  relationship.
  147         (e) Whether the requested visitation would expose the minor
  148  child to conduct, moral standards, experiences, or other factors
  149  that are inconsistent with influences provided by the parent.
  150         (f) The nature of the relationship between the child’s
  151  parent and the grandparent.
  152         (g) The reasons cited by the parent in ending contact or
  153  visitation between the minor child and the grandparent which was
  154  previously allowed by the parent.
  155         (h) The psychological toll of visitation disputes on the
  156  minor child.
  157         (i) Other factors that the court considers necessary in
  158  making its determination.
  159         (6) Part II of chapter 61 applies to actions brought under
  160  this section.
  161         (7) If actions under this section and s. 61.13 are pending
  162  concurrently, the courts are strongly encouraged to consolidate
  163  the actions in order to minimize the burden of litigation on the
  164  minor child and the other parties.
  165         (8) An order for grandparent visitation may be modified
  166  upon a showing by the person petitioning for modification that a
  167  substantial change in circumstances has occurred and that
  168  modification of visitation is in the best interest of the minor
  169  child.
  170         (9) An original action requesting visitation under this
  171  section may be filed by a grandparent only once during any 2
  172  year period, except on good cause shown that the minor child is
  173  suffering, or may suffer, significant and demonstrable mental or
  174  emotional harm caused by a parental decision to deny visitation
  175  between a minor child and the grandparent, which was not known
  176  to the grandparent at the time of filing an earlier action.
  177         (10) This section does not provide for grandparent
  178  visitation with a minor child placed for adoption under chapter
  179  63 except as provided in s. 752.071 with respect to adoption by
  180  a stepparent or close relative.
  181         (11) Venue shall be in the county where the minor child
  182  primarily resides, unless venue is otherwise governed by chapter
  183  39, chapter 61, or chapter 63.
  184         Section 4. Section 752.07, Florida Statutes, is repealed.
  185         Section 5. Section 752.071, Florida Statutes, is created to
  186  read:
  187         752.071 Effect of adoption by stepparent or close
  188  relative.—After the adoption of a minor child by a stepparent or
  189  close relative, the stepparent or close relative may petition
  190  the court to terminate an order granting grandparent visitation
  191  under this chapter which was entered before the adoption. The
  192  court may terminate the order unless the grandparent is able to
  193  show that the criteria of s. 752.011 authorizing the visitation
  194  continue to be satisfied.
  195         Section 6. Section 752.015, Florida Statutes, is amended to
  196  read:
  197         752.015 Mediation of visitation disputes.—It is shall be
  198  the public policy of this state that families resolve
  199  differences over grandparent visitation within the family. It is
  200  shall be the further public policy of this state that, when
  201  families are unable to resolve differences relating to
  202  grandparent visitation, that the family participate in any
  203  formal or informal mediation services that may be available. If
  204  When families are unable to resolve differences relating to
  205  grandparent visitation and a petition is filed pursuant to s.
  206  752.011 s. 752.01, the court shall, if such services are
  207  available in the circuit, refer the case to family mediation in
  208  accordance with the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure rules
  209  promulgated by the Supreme Court.
  210         Section 7. This act shall take effect July 1, 2015.