The issue of child custody has many emotional elements that can create conflict and result in bitter feelings for all parties involved. Therefore, an experienced family law firm that understands all the legal issues – and options for compromise – is best suited to handle child custody cases.
Grandparent’s Child Custody Laws in Florida
Florida law allows grandparents and relatives to file for custody under two different provisions: Non-dependent and dependent.
Non-dependent children are defined as children who are not under the supervision of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), which is the state government agency responsible for the safety and welfare of minors. This means that the DCF has not received any information that a child’s welfare is in danger.
The DCF defines a dependent child as a child who has been taken from their home and placed under state supervision. Physical or sexual abuse are the most common reasons why DCF removes a child from a home. Dependent children are required to meet with a case manager at least once a month, and the case manager will also meet with the child’s parents and current caregivers to determine the best course of action for the well-being of the child.
Grandparent/Relative Custody Options for Non-Dependent Children
When grandparents, or other relatives, petition for custody of a child defined as ‘non-dependent,’ four options are available:
- Temporary Custody – The court awards legal custody (the right to make major decisions for the child) to the grandparents for a short period of time. A family court judge determines the types of major decisions that grandparents can make.
- Physical Custody – The court allows a grandchild to live with the grandparents, but does not grant legal custody. This means that a parent can remove the child from the home at any time. In many instances, this type of custody occurs after grandparents and one or both parents establish an agreement about where the child will live.
- Guardianship – When grandparents become guardians, they have legal custody until the child turns 18, or until a family court judge modifies custody based on new circumstances, such as a parent who petitions for sole custody.
- Adoption – If a child’s parents renounce their parental rights, or if a court revokes those rights, a family court can award grandparents permanent custody, which includes legal and physical custody.
Grandparent/Relative Custody Options for Dependent Children
When grandparents, or other relatives, seek custody of a child defined as a ‘dependent,’ there are also four options available:
- Temporary Custody – Grandparents/relatives are given temporary legal custody, and can make major decisions for the child if they are also approved by a caseworker at DCF.
- Long-Term Custody – Grandparents/relatives are awarded legal custody after six months of temporary custody. In many instances, this is granted after DCF informs the court that the child’s welfare would not be best served by being returned to their parents. However, a family court judge can overturn the decision if circumstances change in the parents’ life.
- Court-Ordered Placement – After a judge determines that a parent is not able to care for a child, a judge can place that child with the grandparents, or relatives, for a temporary period of time under the direct authority of DCF. Parents are usually required to meet certain standards to regain custody.
- Adoption – If a child’s parents renounce their parental rights, or if a court revokes those rights, a family court can award grandparents or relatives permanent custody, which includes legal and physical custody.
An Advocate for Your Claim
Whether you are involved in a grandparent’s or relative custody case that involves a dependent child or a non-dependent child, this process has many legal complications and can take a long time to resolve. Understanding your options is the first step in implementing a legal strategy that can achieve the best results. An experienced family lawyer can help you get the best arrangement possible. Please call The Law Office of Eric C. Cheshire at 561-655-8844 to schedule a personal consultation with Attorney Cheshire, for a thorough and knowledgeable evaluation of your case.