What Rights Do Grandparents Have in California?

Over one million children in the United States have a grandparent as their primary caregiver. In addition to that, over three million children in the US live in their grandparents’ homes. When you take these facts into consideration, you can understand that the value that a grandparent has in their grandchild’s life can be significant and undeniable.

For one reason or another, the relationship between a grandparent and their grandchildren may be interrupted, disrupted, or severed if the family is facing difficult matters such as divorce, child custody, or other family law matters. In such circumstances, grandparents and parents alike need to understand the rights and responsibilities that grandparents have in California.

In many family law cases, it’s not uncommon for relatives such as grandparents, aunts, or uncles to get involved to alleviate some of the burden and help family members in need. If this help is welcomed by the parents of the grandchildren, then there should be no legal difficulties. However, there are certain circumstances where there is some dispute or a challenge over a grandparent’s right to be involved in certain family law issues.

Who Gets to Decide Whether a Grandparent Can See Their Grandchildren?

In most cases, a child’s parents retain the legal right to decide whether grandparents receive visitation time with their grandchild. If both parents are alive and married, the law presumes that they know their children’s needs and desires and always have their best interests in mind. Even divorced parents are granted some allowance to decide who and when their child has visitation with someone else.

However, there are some exceptions to this.

In some situations, a family law court may override a parent’s objections and allow the grandparent visitation time if the court believes that this is in the best interest of the grandchild.

Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights in CA?

Not long ago, the idea of grandparent rights was relatively unknown or unheard of. Now, the law recognizes the importance that grandparents play in the lives of their grandchildren and attempts to uphold these strong bonds if they believe it is in the best interests of the children.

In California, grandparents do not have an automatic right to child custody or child visitation time. However, grandparents do have the right to pursue visitation time by taking legal action. When seeking visitation rights, interested grandparents with a pre-existing relationship with the grandchild may petition the court for visitation time. To do so, it is highly recommended that grandparents retain professional legal counsel from experienced family law lawyers.

When Can Grandparents Request Visitation?

The best interests of minor children will always be at the forefront of every family law judge’s decision-making. In many cases, that will mean adhering to the wishes of the parents, as it is believed that the parents have the best interests of their children at heart. However, certain circumstances may counter the directives and wishes of the parents, especially in cases where grandparents have engendered a strong and healthy relationship with their grandkids.

Situations in which grandparents may consider seeking visitation rights include:

  • One or both parents are deceased.
  • The minor child’s parents are no longer married or together.
  • The child’s parents are married but do not live together on a permanent basis.
  • The child doesn’t live with either of their parents.
  • One or both parents support the grandparent’s request to visit with the child.
  • The child has been adopted by a stepparent.
  • The child is mature enough to express their preference for visitation with the grandparents.
  • One of the parents is incarcerated or voluntarily institutionalized.
  • A parent’s whereabouts have been unknown for at least 30 days.

When Can’t Grandparents Request Visitation Rights?

In the state of California, the family law courts prioritize the rights of parents over nonparents. This means that the courts will generally deny grandparents’ rights when both the minor child’s parents agree that the grandparent should not have visitation rights.

In most cases, grandparents cannot file for visitation time if the grandchild’s parents are still married and living together.

Most jurisdictions hold that when a child is adopted and the biological parent’s rights are terminated, so too are the rights of the grandparents.

How to Petition for Visitation Time?

In order to seek visitation rights with their grandchildren, a grandparent will need to file a legal petition requesting these rights. If the parents of the minor child are already going through divorce proceedings, a paternity case, or child custody cases, your petition for visitation can join this larger case. If, however, there is no existing case, you will need to file your own petition with a family law court, which will open a new case.

Whatever the situation, it is highly recommended that you retain professional legal counsel from experienced family law attorneys. Please contact our law firm for more information.

Do Grandparents Have Custody Rights?

In certain circumstances, it may be in the best interest of the child for them to be placed in the care of a grandparent. If other family members want to take the child in, a grandparent may be forced to approve the bond they share with the grandchild in order to establish that they would be the proper caregiver.

Situations in which a grandparent may take custody of their grandchildren include the following:

  • Both parents are deceased.
  • The whereabouts of one or both parents are unknown.
  • Both parents are deemed unfit to care for their child.
  • One parent is deemed unfit, and the other parent refuses to be the primary caregiver.
  • Criminal or illegal activity happening in the child’s home.
  • Drug or alcohol abuse in the child’s home.
  • The minor child is being physically, sexually, or verbally abused.
  • One or both parents are in jail or prison.
  • Both parents agree that the grandparents should have custody.
  • The physical, mental, or emotional health of both parents makes it impossible for them to care for their child.

Schedule an In-Depth Case Evaluation with an Experienced Family Law Attorney Today

The Law Office of Patrick O’Kennedy has extensive experience representing family law matters in California. We would be proud to lend legal assistance to you as you pursue visitation or custody rights.

To learn more about our legal services, please schedule your initial consultation with our law firm today. You may reach us at 714-701-6356.