Today, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 1119, known by advocates as the ‘Markel Act,’ to protect grandparents and children against alienation from each other in narrow, tragic situations.
Specifically, the bill says that grandparents can petition courts for visitation with their grandchildren where the living parent was found culpable by a criminal or civil court for the other parent’s death.
Inspiration for the bill, sponsored by Rep. Jackie Toledo and Sen. Keith Perry, was the 2014 murder-for-hire of FSU law professor Dan Markel, gunned down in his garage by hitmen, leaving two young sons without a father.
Law enforcement successfully prosecuted three accomplices who they say were hired by the family of Markel’s ex-wife, Wendi Adelson, to execute Markel so that Wendi could move to Miami with the children.
Before the murder, the court denied her petition to move the children away from Markel.
Wendi’s brother, Charlie Adelson, was arrested in April for his role in the murder; authorities named both Wendi and their mother Donna as co-conspirators.
While the terms of HB 1119 don’t fully apply to the Markel murder, as there has been no civil or criminal ruling against Wendi (to date), the new law creates an incentive for a parent to allow visitation with grandparents to avoid litigation. It also creates a powerful disincentive for families to see murder as a workable solution to custody disputes.
For the Markel family, the moment is significant.
“We are so grateful to Gov. DeSantis for signing this bill and for the leadership of House Speaker Chris Sprowls, Rep. Jackie Toledo, and Sen. Keith Perry for carrying the effort forward. This effort came out of tragedy, but we are pleased and hopeful that this initiative will benefit other families,” said Ruth Markel on behalf of her family. “Danny would be proud to know such mountains were moved for the protection of his two beloved sons.”
Lobbyists Jeff Johnston and Amanda Stewart with Johnston & Stewart, along with Markel family friend Karen Cyphers, led advocacy efforts to advance the cause.
“This type of project means so much to our team, knowing that it can help families avoid suffering and alienation from one another,” said Johnston, “We are grateful to Speaker Chris Sprowls, President Wilton Simpson, and the bill sponsors for their vision, and to Gov. DeSantis for signing the ‘Markel Act’ into law.”
Toledo and Simpson share this sense of purpose and gratitude.
“At a time when many Floridians are together with family, some grandparents remain blocked from seeing their grandchildren,” said Toledo, a Tampa Republican. “I am proud to stand up for our most vulnerable, children and grandparents, in extreme and tragic circumstances with this legislation.”
“Time spent between grandparents and grandchildren is important and special, fostering the traditions that tie generations together across all seasons of life. But some families in Florida remain separated due to circumstances beyond comprehension,” said Perry, a Republican from Gainesville. “This bill will provide an opportunity for families who have lost so much already to receive the support and affection from those who love and miss them dearly.”
Cyphers, partner and director of research at Sachs Media and volunteer with Justice for Dan, was moved to help after meeting Ruth and feeling her heartbreak of being alienated from Dan’s sons.
“The tragedy of Dan’s murder was compounded by this cruel, unnecessary separation — but until now, Florida law gave his parents no recourse toward reuniting with their grandchildren,” Cyphers said. “I hope the Governor’s signing of the ‘Markel Act’ into law brings peace and hope to their family and others.”
June 24, 2022 at 8:52 pm
DeSantis stepping on family rights again. Big Government DeSantis at it again…Swamp 2.0. We need Trump. DeSantis did NOTHING to end abortion.
June 28, 2022 at 6:59 am
Quit winning. Something better than nothing. As I am pro choice. Why? Because I am woman and you are not.
June 25, 2022 at 11:58 am
I am so glad Gov DeSantis signed this bill. It was so clear that this whole family was behind this. I hope the rest of the family will be charged as well.
June 25, 2022 at 2:19 pm
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June 26, 2022 at 9:43 am
A bill should be signed for grandparents because their children are keeping grandparents away because they are angry with their parents for their own personal reasons. So many grandparents suffer like myself and others I have met because their children are angry with the parents.y husband & I from the day she found out at 18 until the day after she got married supported them both financial, mentally ,emotionally & anything in between. The wanted for nothing
She couldn’t hold a job. Raised her son for 5 years while she was finding her self. So much one. Day after wedding she had to be on spuses side and stand up to us and walked away. Keeps grandson from us.
June 26, 2022 at 11:33 pm
I completely understand how you feel but my son isn’t with the mother but did everything until she ws 4yrs, Mygets to see her she will 10 in October. We have continued to provide but her mother all she wants is money! And this is my only grandchild, the mother has used her against us up until recently I finally had enough! I am hurt to the core! We are allowed to do things with her alone! We help take care of them when they are born but then in an instant taken from us, like we don’t Matter!!!
Sorry about your situation
June 28, 2022 at 11:46 am
I agree! It’s not fair and by law we can do nothing. We need to get together and bring this issue to light!
June 26, 2022 at 8:26 pm
WHILE THIS IS GREAT THAT GOV DESANTIS SIGNED THIS BILL FOR GRANDPARENTS IT DOESNT HELP ME. MY SON PASSED AWAY TWO YRS AGO FROM FETANYL POISONING. HE LEFT BEHIND HIS SON (MY GRANDSON) NOW ABOUT TO TURN 13. MY SON WAS NOT MARRIED TO MY GRANDSONS MOM ALTHOUGH THEY LIVED TOGETHER FOR 19 YEARS. MY SON WOULD ALWAYS BRING MY GRANSON OVER TO SPEND THE WEEKENDS EVERY FEW MONTHS AND WE ALWAYS GOT TOGETHER FOR EVERY HOLIDAY AND BIRTHDAYS. I AM SO BROKEN HEARTED, I MISS AND LOVE MY GRANDSON DEARLY, BUT SHORTLY AFTER MY SONS PASSING MY GRANSONS MOM CHANGED HER PHONE NUMBER AND HAVE TOTALLY CUT US OUR FAMILY OUT OF HIS LIFE. I ALSO HURT FOR MY GRANDSON, HE LOVED SPENDING TIME WITH US, FISHING, SWIMMING COOKOUTS ETC. I KNOW HE LOVES US AND MISSES US ALL AND IS PROBABLY WONDERING WHY WE DONT SEE HIM, GOD ONLY KNOWS WHAT HIS MOM IS TELILING HIM. I THINK ABOUT HIM ALL THE TIME. I AM RETIRED NOW, I WOULD GIVE ANYTHING TO SEE HIM AND HEAR HIS VOICE. I HURTS SO MUCH. AND FLORIDA LAW SAYS THAT IF THE TWO PARENTS WERE NOT MARRIED AND ONES DIES, THEN THE SPOUSE LEFT DOES NOT HAVE TO ALLOW THE GRANDCHILD SEE THE GRANDPARENTS. PLEASE CHANGE THIS LAW GOV. DESANTIS.
June 26, 2022 at 9:26 pm
Grandparents shouldn’t have any rights to their grandkids. Going to stick your dumb religion and beliefs down the grand kids throats? What Garbage. Time for parents to take their kids and leave the state.
June 26, 2022 at 11:48 pm
ALL GRANDPARENTS SHOULD HAVE RIGHTS!!!
WHO DO ALL OF YOU COME TO THAT CAN’T RAISE THEM! OR NEED MONEY BECAUSE YOU CAN’T PAY FOR THINGS OR DON’T HAVE A JOB! TIMES ARE TOUGH NOW DAYS! JUST LIKE IF YOU PAY CHILD SUPPORT YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO SEE YOUR CHILD? RIGHT!
SO AS A GRANDPARENTS WE SHOULD BE ABLE TO SEE OUR GRANDCHILD ,PISS ON YOU IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE NEW BILL MOVE AWAY PISSED
June 27, 2022 at 12:27 pm
How about I stick my religion, beliefs and my foot up your ass Chris. Wait a minute, your head is already up there.
June 27, 2022 at 4:06 am
My daughter passed away Christmas morning 2017. My grandson has been living with his Dad. While my husband, my grandson’s grandfather was alive the Dad promised him that we could have time with our grandson. Since my husband passed away, the only way he’s allowed me to see my grandson was if it was at my son’s house. I haven’t been able to get my grandson in 6 months and unless his other grandmother calls for my grandson I don’t get to talk to him on the phone either. The dad blames me for my daughter and his breakup and I had nothing to do with that. I miss my grandson so much, he will always be my daughter’s son.
June 27, 2022 at 9:20 pm
All grandparents should have rights and be able to see and be able to talk with their grand children regardless of the situation. Love between a child & a grandparent is unlike any other, it shouldn’t be denied. It’s like denying the child part of itself.
June 27, 2022 at 11:13 pm
Let’s just grow up. I am a grandparent and I have a grandchild. I raised her and my mom, the great grand mother, also raised her. The Parents came in and just grab her away in 15 mins. I haven’t seen or talked to her in 3 yrs. It is like she has died. I’m grateful that she is with her parents. She is not allowed to say my name, call me, look at a pic of me, or ask about me. Never once did we refuse her parents or say anything neg. I hope this new law can help me see me grandchild. She lives just 30 mins away.
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