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What options would grandparents have in missing woman's case?

Posted at 7:25 PM, Jul 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-20 10:41:01-04

It's been two months since Isabella Hellmann's husband told the Coast Guard his wife disappeared from his boat after he felt the 37-foot Catamaran hit an object.

There has been tension between the missing woman's family and her husband, Lewis Bennett, who is now in England with the couple's soon-to-be one-year-old daughter.

The family is asking Bennett to allow them to visit the baby for her birthday, and as one Treasure Coast Attorney puts it, in Florida reaching an arrangement with the father may be Hellmann's family best route to seeing Emelia again.

"Certainly the court always encourages individuals to work it out amongst themselves, so if they are able to come to an agreement that's the most preferred outcome," said Shaun Plymale, Treasure Coast Legal.

There were some changes to the law in 2015, but Plymale said it only offers rights in very limited situations. With a missing, deceased, or parents in a vegetative state, grandparents could seek visitation, but the other parent has to be in a specific situation.

"That only allows grandparents to have a right to visitation when other parent is charged and convicted of a violent crime and still that's only for visitation and there is still the best interest of the child analysis that goes and you have to show that there is substantial risk of harm if the child is kept in that other parent's custody," said Plymale.

Plymale said another option for the family is to look for legal guidance outside of Florida.

"One of the things that I would look into is what are their rights potentially in England where the child is. There's an argument that jurisdiction of what should happen with this child actually lies where the child is right now," said Plymale.