Florida Senate - 2015                              CS for SB 368
       By the Committee on Fiscal Policy; and Senators Abruzzo and
       594-04163-15                                           2015368c1
    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 the court to appoint a
   12         guardian ad litem and requiring the court to refer the
   13         matter to family mediation upon a specified court
   14         finding; authorizing grandparent visitation if the
   15         court makes specified findings; providing factors for
   16         court consideration; providing applicability of the
   17         Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement
   18         Act; encouraging the consolidation of certain
   19         concurrent actions; providing for modification of an
   20         order awarding grandparent visitation; limiting the
   21         frequency of actions seeking visitation; limiting
   22         applicability to a minor child placed for adoption;
   23         providing for venue; repealing s. 752.07, F.S.,
   24         relating to the effect of adoption of a child by a
   25         stepparent on grandparent visitation rights; creating
   26         s. 752.071, F.S.; providing conditions under which a
   27         court may terminate a grandparent visitation order
   28         upon adoption of a minor child by a stepparent or
   29         close relative; amending s. 752.015, F.S.; conforming
   30         provisions and cross-references to changes made by the
   31         act; providing an effective date.
   33  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   35         Section 1. Section 752.001, Florida Statutes, is amended to
   36  read:
   37         752.001 Definitions.—As used in For purposes of this
   38  chapter, the term:
   39         (1) “Grandparent” shall include great-grandparent.
   40         (2) “Missing” means having whereabouts that are unknown for
   41  a period of at least 90 days and not being able to be located
   42  after a diligent search and inquiry. Such search and inquiry for
   43  a missing person must include, at a minimum, inquiries of all
   44  relatives of the person who can reasonably be identified by the
   45  petitioner, inquiries of hospitals in the areas where the person
   46  last resided, inquiries of the person’s recent employers,
   47  inquiries of state and federal agencies likely to have
   48  information about the person, inquiries of appropriate utility
   49  and postal providers, a thorough search of at least one
   50  electronic database specifically designed for locating persons,
   51  and inquiries of appropriate law enforcement agencies.
   52         (3) “Persistent vegetative state” has the same meaning as
   53  provided in s. 765.101.
   54         Section 2. Section 752.01, Florida Statutes, is repealed.
   55         Section 3. Section 752.011, Florida Statutes, is created to
   56  read:
   57         752.011 Petition for grandparent visitation with a minor
   58  child.—A grandparent of a minor child whose parents are
   59  deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative state, or whose
   60  one parent is deceased, missing, or in a persistent vegetative
   61  state and whose other parent has been convicted of a felony or
   62  an offense of violence-evincing behavior that poses a
   63  substantial threat of harm to the minor child’s health or
   64  welfare, may petition the court for court-ordered visitation
   65  with the grandchild under this section.
   66         (1) Upon the filing of a petition by a grandparent for
   67  visitation, the court shall hold a preliminary hearing to
   68  determine whether the petitioner has made a prima facie showing
   69  of parental unfitness or significant harm to the child. Absent
   70  such a showing, the court shall dismiss the petition and may
   71  award reasonable attorney fees and costs to be paid by the
   72  petitioner to the respondent.
   73         (2) If the court finds that there is prima facie evidence
   74  that a parent is unfit or that there is significant harm to the
   75  child, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem and shall refer
   76  the matter to family mediation as provided in s. 752.015. If
   77  family mediation does not successfully resolve the issue of
   78  grandparent visitation, the court shall proceed with a final
   79  hearing.
   80         (3) After conducting a final hearing on the issue of
   81  visitation, the court may award reasonable visitation to the
   82  grandparent with respect to the minor child if the court finds
   83  by clear and convincing evidence that a parent is unfit or that
   84  there is significant harm to the child, that visitation is in
   85  the best interest of the child, and that the visitation will not
   86  materially harm the parent-child relationship.
   87         (4) In assessing the best interest of the minor child under
   88  subsection (3), the court shall consider the totality of the
   89  circumstances affecting the mental and emotional well-being of
   90  the child, including:
   91         (a) The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing
   92  between the minor child and the grandparent, including those
   93  resulting from the relationship that had been previously allowed
   94  by the child’s parent.
   95         (b) The length and quality of the previous relationship
   96  between the minor child and the grandparent, including the
   97  extent to which the grandparent was involved in providing
   98  regular care and support for the child.
   99         (c) Whether the grandparent established ongoing personal
  100  contact with the minor child before the death of the parent,
  101  before the onset of the parent’s persistent vegetative state, or
  102  before the parent was missing.
  103         (d) The reasons cited by the respondent parent in ending
  104  contact or visitation between the minor child and the
  105  grandparent.
  106         (e) Whether there has been significant and demonstrable
  107  mental or emotional harm to the minor child as a result of the
  108  disruption in the family unit, whether the child derived support
  109  and stability from the grandparent, and whether the continuation
  110  of such support and stability is likely to prevent further harm.
  111         (f) The existence or threat to the minor child of mental
  112  injury as defined in s. 39.01.
  113         (g) The present mental, physical, and emotional health of
  114  the minor child.
  115         (h) The present mental, physical, and emotional health of
  116  the grandparent.
  117         (i) The recommendations of the minor child’s guardian ad
  118  litem, if one is appointed.
  119         (j) The result of any psychological evaluation of the minor
  120  child.
  121         (k) The preference of the minor child if the child is
  122  determined to be of sufficient maturity to express a preference.
  123         (l) A written testamentary statement by the deceased or
  124  missing parent or parent in a persistent vegetative state
  125  regarding visitation with the grandparent. The absence of a
  126  testamentary statement is not deemed to provide evidence that
  127  the deceased or missing parent or parent in a persistent
  128  vegetative state would have objected to the requested
  129  visitation.
  130         (m) Other factors that the court considers necessary to
  131  making its determination.
  132         (5) In assessing material harm to the parent-child
  133  relationship under subsection (3), the court shall consider the
  134  totality of the circumstances affecting the parent-child
  135  relationship, including:
  136         (a) Whether there have been previous disputes between the
  137  grandparent and the parent over childrearing or other matters
  138  related to the care and upbringing of the minor child.
  139         (b) Whether visitation would materially interfere with or
  140  compromise parental authority.
  141         (c) Whether visitation can be arranged in a manner that
  142  does not materially detract from the parent-child relationship,
  143  including the quantity of time available for enjoyment of the
  144  parent-child relationship and any other consideration related to
  145  disruption of the schedule and routine of the parent and the
  146  minor child.
  147         (d) Whether visitation is being sought for the primary
  148  purpose of continuing or establishing a relationship with the
  149  minor child with the intent that the child benefit from the
  150  relationship.
  151         (e) Whether the requested visitation would expose the minor
  152  child to conduct, moral standards, experiences, or other factors
  153  that are inconsistent with influences provided by the parent.
  154         (f) The nature of the relationship between the child’s
  155  parent and the grandparent.
  156         (g) The reasons cited by the parent in ending contact or
  157  visitation between the minor child and the grandparent which was
  158  previously allowed by the parent.
  159         (h) The psychological toll of visitation disputes on the
  160  minor child.
  161         (i) Other factors that the court considers necessary in
  162  making its determination.
  163         (6) Part II of chapter 61 applies to actions brought under
  164  this section.
  165         (7) If actions under this section and s. 61.13 are pending
  166  concurrently, the courts are strongly encouraged to consolidate
  167  the actions in order to minimize the burden of litigation on the
  168  minor child and the other parties.
  169         (8) An order for grandparent visitation may be modified
  170  upon a showing by the person petitioning for modification that a
  171  substantial change in circumstances has occurred and that
  172  modification of visitation is in the best interest of the minor
  173  child.
  174         (9) An original action requesting visitation under this
  175  section may be filed by a grandparent only once during any 2
  176  year period, except on good cause shown that the minor child is
  177  suffering, or may suffer, significant and demonstrable mental or
  178  emotional harm caused by a parental decision to deny visitation
  179  between a minor child and the grandparent, which was not known
  180  to the grandparent at the time of filing an earlier action.
  181         (10) This section does not provide for grandparent
  182  visitation with a minor child placed for adoption under chapter
  183  63 except as provided in s. 752.071 with respect to adoption by
  184  a stepparent or close relative.
  185         (11) Venue shall be in the county where the minor child
  186  primarily resides, unless venue is otherwise governed by chapter
  187  39, chapter 61, or chapter 63.
  188         Section 4. Section 752.07, Florida Statutes, is repealed.
  189         Section 5. Section 752.071, Florida Statutes, is created to
  190  read:
  191         752.071 Effect of adoption by stepparent or close
  192  relative.—After the adoption of a minor child by a stepparent or
  193  close relative, the stepparent or close relative may petition
  194  the court to terminate an order granting grandparent visitation
  195  under this chapter which was entered before the adoption. The
  196  court may terminate the order unless the grandparent is able to
  197  show that the criteria of s. 752.011 authorizing the visitation
  198  continue to be satisfied.
  199         Section 6. Section 752.015, Florida Statutes, is amended to
  200  read:
  201         752.015 Mediation of visitation disputes.—It is shall be
  202  the public policy of this state that families resolve
  203  differences over grandparent visitation within the family. It is
  204  shall be the further public policy of this state that, when
  205  families are unable to resolve differences relating to
  206  grandparent visitation, that the family participate in any
  207  formal or informal mediation services that may be available. If
  208  When families are unable to resolve differences relating to
  209  grandparent visitation and a petition is filed pursuant to s.
  210  752.011 s. 752.01, the court shall, if such services are
  211  available in the circuit, refer the case to family mediation in
  212  accordance with the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure rules
  213  promulgated by the Supreme Court.
  214         Section 7. This act shall take effect July 1, 2015.