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New Grandparent Contact Rights

Gov. Rick Scott signs grandparents' rights bill into law

Published On: Jun 11 2015 10:19:22 PM EDT Updated On: Jun 11 2015 11:41:48 PM EDT

Missing mother's family celebrates new law

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill into law Thursday night, that authorizes the grandparent of a minor child to petition a court for visitation under certain circumstances.

Some of those circumstances include when a parent has been killed, is in a vegetative state, or is missing. It also includes when the other parent has been convicted of a felony or an offense of violence evincing behavior that poses a substantial threat of harm to the minor child's health or welfare.

The bill states, "Upon the filing of a petition by a grandparent for visitation, the court shall hold a preliminary hearing ... the court may award reasonable visitation to the grandparent ... if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that a parent is unfit or that there is significant harm to the child, that visitation is in the best interest of the minor child, and that the visitation will not materially harm the parent-child relationship."

The signing of the law was good news for Michelle Parker's parents, who have fought for the bill since their daughter disappeared three years ago.

Parker was reported missing after the airing of a pre-recorded episode of the TV show "The People's Court," that featured the her and her ex-fiance, Dale Smith, in a dispute over her engagement ring. She dropped off their two kids at Smith's house and hasn't been seen since.

Parker's mom, Yvonne Stewart, said that since then, Smith has not her and her husband see their grandkids.

Stewart filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Smith, who remains a prime suspect in the disappearance, in early 2013, but that case was dismissed in 2014.

Parker's body has never been found. In February, Orlando police were still conducting searches for something vital to the investigation.

The new law will take effect July 1.

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