Amendment expanding grandparents visitation rights postponed

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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
December 12, 2017

MGN Online

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- A decades long battle continues as a proposed amendment expanding the rights of grandparents was temporarily postponed by the Constitutional Revision Committee.

Currently, there are only two scenarios in which grandparents can qualify for visitation rights with a grandchild; both parents have to be deceased or near dead, or one has to be dead and the other convicted of a felony.

A proposed amendment to the state constitution being considered by the CRC would allow a court to grant visitation rights if the state determines it's in the best interest of the child.

"The compelling state interest puts the burden on the grandparents to show why the court should intervene," explains James Karl of Alienated Grandparents Anonymous. "That is to say there must be intervention because there is a danger or a demonstrable harm."

The proposal was met with a litany of concerns, especially whether the state has the right to intervene in private family matters.

"The Supreme Court has called the oldest fundamental liberty recognized by the court is that of the right to be a parent," said CRC commissioner Lisa Carlton.

There are also concerns that the proposal gives grandparents elevated rights over other relatives, like aunts and uncles.

The concerns were enough to guarantee the amendment wouldn't survive the committee as written. Members temporarily postponed the proposal for future revision.

Amendment sponsor Darryl Rouson says he's open to the negotiation. "You live to fight another day and to fight more strongly. You just reload and come back."

If the amendment does eventually pass, it's likely to run into legal challenges based on previous U.S. Supreme Court decisions, which favor the parent's ultimate control over their child.

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