Beagle v. Beagle, No. 85971

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtOVERTON; KOGAN
Citation678 So.2d 1271
Parties21 Fla. L. Weekly S340 Dewey Keith BEAGLE, et al., Petitioners, v. Roy Thomas BEAGLE, et al., Respondents.
Docket NumberNo. 85971
Decision Date22 August 1996

Page 1271

678 So.2d 1271
21 Fla. L. Weekly S340
Dewey Keith BEAGLE, et al., Petitioners,
v.
Roy Thomas BEAGLE, et al., Respondents.
No. 85971.
Supreme Court of Florida.
Aug. 22, 1996.

Wm. J. Sheppard and Richard W. Smith of Sheppard and White, P.A., Jacksonville, and

Page 1272

Stephen Donohoe, Jacksonville, for Petitioners.

Nancy N. Nowlis, Jacksonville, for Respondents.

Ross Baer, Sue-Ellen Kenny and Jeanine Germanowicz, West Palm Beach, for amicus curiae, Sayge Schreckengost and Scott Schreckengost and The Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, Inc.

Andrew H. Kayton, Legal Director, Miami, for amicus curiae, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Florida.

OVERTON, Justice.

We have for review Beagle v. Beagle, 654 So.2d 1260 (Fla. 1st DCA 1995), concerning the sensitive family law issue of grandparental visitation rights. Specifically, we address only the 1993 amendment to section 752.01 of the Florida Statutes. Prior to such modification, the statute at issue allowed the award of grandparental visitation in four other distinct family situations. The constitutionality of those four paragraphs is not at issue in this proceeding. We limit our holding to only those situations in which a child is living with both natural parents, at least one natural parent objects to grandparental visitation, and no relevant matters are pending in the court system. See 752.01(1)(e), Fla. Stat. (1995). In such cases, we find that a judge cannot impose grandparental visitation upon an intact family. We emphasize that our determination today is not a comment on the desirability of interaction between grandparents and their grandchildren. We focus exclusively on whether it is proper for the government, in the absence of a demonstrated harm to the child, to force such interaction against the express wishes of at least one parent in an intact family.

The relevant paragraph is challenged as violative of the privacy guarantees in both the Florida Constitution and the United States Constitution. The First District Court of Appeal concluded that the paragraph did not offend either constitution. The district court did, however, certify the following as being a question of great public importance:

IS SECTION 752.01(1)(e), FLORIDA STATUTES (1993), FACIALLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL BECAUSE IT CONSTITUTES IMPERMISSIBLE STATE INTERFERENCE WITH PARENTAL RIGHTS PROTECTED BY EITHER ARTICLE I, SECTION 23, OF THE FLORIDA CONSTITUTION OR THE DUE PROCESS CLAUSE OF THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION?

Id. at 1263. We have jurisdiction. Art. V, § 3(b)(4), Fla. Const. For the reasons expressed, we disagree with the district court majority and answer the certified question in the affirmative. We find that the challenged paragraph infringes upon the rights of parents to raise their children free from government intervention. The paragraph's major flaw is its failure to require a showing of harm to the child prior to any award of any grandparental visitation rights. The absence of such harm requirement results in the State being unable to satisfy the compelling interest standard announced by our decisions construing article I, section 23, of the Florida Constitution. Consequently, section 752.01(1)(e) must be stricken as facially unconstitutional. Our resolution of this issue under the Florida Constitution moots the federal claim. We emphasize that the inadequacy of the best interest test in this limited circumstance does not change or modify existing principles regarding the use of that test in other family law contexts.

History

Before proceeding, we briefly outline the historical development of the Florida grandparental visitation statute. First, in 1978, the legislature modified section 61.13(2)(b) of the Florida Statutes. The relevant language read:

The court may award the grandparents visitation rights of a minor children [sic] if it is deemed by the court to be in the child's best interest. Nothing in this section shall be construed to require that grandparents be made parties or given notice of dissolution pleadings or proceedings, nor shall such grandparents have legal

Page 1273

standing as "contestants" as defined in s. 61.1306.

§ 61.13(2)(b), Fla. Stat. (Supp.1978). The modification quoted above was not the only action concerning grandparental visitation rights taken by the legislature in 1978. The following, contained in section 68.08, was also enacted:

Any court of this state which is competent to decide child custody matters shall have jurisdiction to award the grandparents of a minor child or minor children visitation rights of the minor child or children upon the death of or desertion by one of the minor child's parents if it is deemed by the court to be in the minor child's best interest.

§ 68.08, Fla. Stat. (Supp.1978).

Second, in 1984 the legislature consolidated the grandparental visitation provisions in chapter 752 of the Florida Statutes. That chapter was titled "Grandparental Visitation Rights." It included a procedure for the granting of grandparental visitation rights in situations: (1) where one or both parents of the child are deceased, 1 (2) where the marriage of the child's parents has been dissolved, 2 or (3) where a parent of the child has deserted the child. 3 Further, the legislature explicitly limited the chapter by refusing to extend its scope to situations in which a child is adopted unless the adoption is by a stepparent. 4

Third, in 1990, the legislature added guidelines with which the courts might determine the best interest of the child. 5 In that same year, the legislature added a section that requires mediation, if such services are available in a given circuit, in cases where families cannot internally resolve their differences and a petition for grandparental visitation rights is filed. 6

Finally, in 1993, the challenged paragraph was added authorizing the award of grandparental visitation rights in situations where the child lives within an intact family. 7 For a full understanding of the challenged paragraph, we set forth subsection one in its entirety with the challenged paragraph underlined.

(1) The court shall, upon petition filed by a grandparent of a minor child, award reasonable visitation rights of visitation to the grandparent with respect to the child when it is in the best interest of the minor child if:

(a) One or both parents of the child are deceased;

(b) The marriage of the parents of the child has been dissolved;

(c) A parent of the child has deserted the child;

(d) The minor child was born out of wedlock and not later determined to be a child born within wedlock as provided in s. 742.091; or

(e) The minor is living with both natural parents who are still married to each other whether or not there is a broken relationship between either or both parents of the minor child and the grandparents, and either or both parents have used their parental authority to prohibit a relationship between the minor child and the grandparents.

752.01(1), Fla. Stat. (1995)(emphasis added).

Facts

The facts in this case are simple. Roy and Sharron Beagle (the grandparents) filed a petition in the trial court for visitation rights with their granddaughter, Amber Beagle (the child). Dewey and Melissa Beagle (the parents) opposed the award of visitation rights and moved to dismiss the grandparents' petition. At the time of the grandparents' petition, the parents were living together with the child as an intact family. The trial court granted the parents' motion to dismiss, finding that section 752.01(1)(e) violated the parents'

Page 1274

right to privacy under article I, section 23, of the Florida Constitution. The district court of appeal reversed. It relied heavily on its prior decision in Sketo v. Brown, 559 So.2d 381 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990). In Sketo, the district court addressed the paragraph in the grandparental visitation statute that allows an award of grandparental visitation rights in situations where a parent is deceased. In that case, the district court ruled that the paragraph at issue was not violative of article I, section 23 of the Florida Constitution. In upholding the challenged paragraph in this case, the district court ruled that there was no reason to assume that intact families were...

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112 practice notes
  • T.M.H. v. D.M.T., No. 5D09–3559.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • January 26, 2012
    ...92 S.Ct. 1029, 31 L.Ed.2d 349 (1972))); Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541, 62 S.Ct. 1110, 86 L.Ed. 1655 (1942); Beagle v. Beagle, 678 So.2d 1271, 1276 (Fla.1996); Grissom v. Dade County, 293 So.2d 59, 62 (Fla.1974); Latera v. Isle at Mission Bay Homeowners Ass'n, Inc., 655 So.2d 144, 1......
  • In re Marriage of Harris, No. S101836.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 23, 2004
    ...specifically involve statutes granting visitation rights to grandparents. For example, in Beagle 17 Cal.Rptr.3d 868 v. Beagle (Fla.1996) 678 So.2d 1271, 1273, the Florida Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of a Florida statute permitting a court to order visitation by grandparen......
  • LBS v. LMS
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
    • January 29, 2002
    ...visitation over the parents' objections only on a showing that failing to do so would be harmful to the child); Beagle v. Beagle, 678 So.2d 1271, 1276 (Fla.1996) (acknowledging the argument that harm or detriment is always an element of a best-interests analysis, but electing to hold Florid......
  • Pitts v. Moore, Docket No. Yor–12–440.
    • United States
    • Supreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
    • April 17, 2014
    ...of strong parental opposition, when the cessation of that relationship would cause substantial harm to the child.”); Beagle v. Beagle, 678 So.2d 1271, 1276 (Fla.1996) (holding that a statute imposing grandparental visitation rights over the objection of at least one parent was unconstitutio......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
112 cases
  • T.M.H. v. D.M.T., No. 5D09–3559.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • January 26, 2012
    ...92 S.Ct. 1029, 31 L.Ed.2d 349 (1972))); Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541, 62 S.Ct. 1110, 86 L.Ed. 1655 (1942); Beagle v. Beagle, 678 So.2d 1271, 1276 (Fla.1996); Grissom v. Dade County, 293 So.2d 59, 62 (Fla.1974); Latera v. Isle at Mission Bay Homeowners Ass'n, Inc., 655 So.2d 144, 1......
  • In re Marriage of Harris, No. S101836.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 23, 2004
    ...specifically involve statutes granting visitation rights to grandparents. For example, in Beagle 17 Cal.Rptr.3d 868 v. Beagle (Fla.1996) 678 So.2d 1271, 1273, the Florida Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of a Florida statute permitting a court to order visitation by grandparen......
  • LBS v. LMS
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
    • January 29, 2002
    ...visitation over the parents' objections only on a showing that failing to do so would be harmful to the child); Beagle v. Beagle, 678 So.2d 1271, 1276 (Fla.1996) (acknowledging the argument that harm or detriment is always an element of a best-interests analysis, but electing to hold Florid......
  • Pitts v. Moore, Docket No. Yor–12–440.
    • United States
    • Supreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
    • April 17, 2014
    ...of strong parental opposition, when the cessation of that relationship would cause substantial harm to the child.”); Beagle v. Beagle, 678 So.2d 1271, 1276 (Fla.1996) (holding that a statute imposing grandparental visitation rights over the objection of at least one parent was unconstitutio......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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