Grandparents are known for spoiling their grandchildren with presents and time, but a new report by AARP shows that grandparents are contributing more to their grandchildren's daily expenses than they ever have before. But, unlike the rights afforded under the grandparent visitation statutes in many states, grandparents in Florida have no legal right to see their grandchildren if the parents do not agree to allow the contact.
Grandparent Contributions Growing
Gone are the days when grandpa and grandma's financial contributions to their grandchildren were limited to birthdays, holidays and other special occasions. Increasingly grandparents are contributing money to support their grandchildren's daily living expenses. From summer camp tuition to fees for swimming lessons, many grandparents are spending more on their grandchildren. The AARP reports that about 25 percent of grandparents say they spend more than $1,000 per year on their grandchildren and 37 percent say they help with daily living costs.
One of the reasons is the economy. Many grandparents are better off than their children; the gap in wealth between young parents, under age 35, and their parents was 47 to one in 2009. Young parents need help from their own parents in order to meet day to day expenses of their children because they simply do not have enough money.
Divorce contributes as well. Grandparents want to help their own children and their grandchildren as they transition from a two income to a one income household.
Grandparents Rights in Florida
Florida courts have declared grandparent's partial custody rights (technically termed time-sharing) an unconstitutional infringement on parents' rights. That means grandparents cannot seek a relationship with their grandchildren through Florida courts, no matter how much money they have contributed to their grandchildren's expenses or time to their upbringing. In the case of divorce, it is the right of each parent to decide whether or not to share a portion of his or her awarded time with grandparents. Even worse is if one parent dies and the surviving parent prevents contact.
What can Grandparents Do?
If you are a grandparent who is being prevented from seeing your grandchildren or are afraid you will be prevented in the future, you should meet with an experienced Florida family law attorney to discuss your options. For example, if you decide you still want to support your grandchild financially in spite of your relationship with his or her parents, you can work with your attorney to develop a financial strategy designed to protect your interests and the interests of your grandchild. A financial strategy may include annual tax-exempt gifts, direct payments for childcare of tuition, and the establishment of a college savings plan.
Grandparents should not get the short end of the stick. Florida grandparents who are being prevented from seeing their grandchildren should contact and experienced family law attorney.