Parental Rights of Non-biological or Legal Parents

Florida family law courts have consistently denied parental or visitation rights sought by anyone who is not a child’s biological or legal parent. These courts cite the privacy provision of the Florida Constitution, found in ARTICLE 1, SECTION 23 which states, [e]very natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into his private life." The Florida Supreme Court has read this provision to deny claims of non-legal or biological parents made on the best interest of the child Rather the court requires proof of demonstrable harm to the child.

One well known example of the application of this standard is the decision by the Florida Supreme Court which held unconstitutional a statute that allowed grandparents to petition for visitation rights with their grandchildren when the child’s parent has died.

Florida courts have also held that agreements between biological and non-biological parents that provide visitation or parental rights for the non-biological parent are unenforceable. These courts appear to be saying that the right of privacy as it applies to parental rights cannot be waived.

A recent case involved the paternity of 5 year old child. Due to her questionable fitness as a parent, DCF removed the child from the mother, who was not married, and placed the child with the person believed to be the father. The child apparently had the purported father’s last name. At some point in the proceeding a paternity test was performed and it turned out the purported father was not the biological father. Although the court noted that the child and the purported father were clearly bonded, the child was removed from the purported father and placed with the mother and the biological father. The court stated that the purported father had no parental rights as he was not the biological father.