Grandparents Visitation Rights in California – Know Your Rights and Options

Grandparent visitation rights in California

Grandparent visitation rights is an evolving and sometimes complex area of family law. Here, we breakdown some of the more common issues encountered in such cases.

Grandparents’ visitation rights in California has been an evolving area of law.

The California family code has dedicated specific sections to grandparents’ rights while our appellate courts have expanded or narrowed those rights by interpreting the statutes.

What are grandparents visitation rights in California? Read on and we will explain.

After you read this article, please call us to discuss your case personally and one on one with one of our experienced Orange County family law attorneys.

Grandparents Visitation Rights in California – Law and Procedure

Grandparents may petition for visitation with their grandchildren in any of the following situations:

1. When a parent has died.

2. When a divorce or other family law case is still pending in family court and child custody is an issues in the case. The family law case has to be pre-judgment for this section to apply.

3. The parents are not married to each other. This includes paternity cases and divorce cases where the court has ended the status of the marriage.

4. The parents are still married but they no longer live together. For this section to apply, the separation must be permanent or indefinite.

In the situation where the parents are not married, the court performs a balancing test. If the court determines there is a bond between the grandparent and the child (a bond that is shown through the child and grandparents’ existing relationship), the court balances that with the parents’ rights to raise their own children and still finds there should be visitation, the court has the discretion to order it.

If the parents are still married, it gets more complicated. In such situations, one of the following must be true:

1. The parents live separately and this must once again be permanent or indefinite.

2. One parent has been absent for over a month without the other parent knowing the whereabouts of the absent parent.

3. One parent supports the grandparents’ petition for visitation.

4. The child does not live with either parent.

5. The child has been adopted by a stepparent.

If any of the above five scenarios apply, then the grandparent can request visitation and petition the court for it. If there is a change at some point in the future such that none of the five situations apply, the court, upon request by either parent, must terminate the grandparent visitation.

What happens to grandparents visitation rights in California if both parents oppose the visitation request? In such a situation, California courts have ruled that there is a presumption the visitation will not be in the child’s best interest as mandated by California child custody laws. That is because the Court does not want to trump parental rights absent extreme and unusual circumstances.

What if one of the parents opposes the request and the other one supports it? What are the grandparents visitation rights in California court then? The presumption does not apply.

Then there is the unique situation where both parents are in the picture but only one of them as sole legal and sole physical custody and it is that parent that opposes the grandparents’ visitation request. What are the grandparents visitation rights in California under such a situation? Since a parent with sole legal and sole physical custody has complete control over custody, courts have held that the presumption against grandparent visitation applies.

Grandparents should not assume that this presumption is the death-knell to their request. Far from it. A presumption simply means the grandparents have to strongly persuade the court with facts and evidence that the visitation is in the child’s best interest.

Are you a grandmother or grandfather and you want to seek your grandparents visitations rights in California court?

Are you a parent who opposes grandparents’ visitation rights in your case? Then you owe it to yourself to contact our experienced family law attorneys for an affordable consultation. We are ready to help you.


  1. raj says

    My parents live overseas and have only seen my fou-year old so nonce for his first birthday. My wife has problems with my parents and only wanted them to stay for five days with us for his first birthday. I would like them to be able to see and interact with him.

    Could I take him overseas or could they visit the U.S. and see my son?



  2. Denise says

    I have been served a petition for grandparents rights today. This is the first time in 10 years I have put my foot down and told the grandmother (mother of my deceased ex) that until further notice she is not to see my children. about a week later CPS was called on me and the reports were filed false. Now I have been served. Not letting time heal even after the death of their father in April I do not trust them to visit my children as often as they use to. Therefore only want them to see them with supervised visitations twice a month. My question is when we go to mediation and they do not agree to this what can happen?

  3. nora says

    I babysat my granddaughter every Sat from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm for 15 months. My son the baby’s father and the mother never married. He was incarcerated before and after the birth. When he was released my grandaughter continued to visit every week from Thurs afternoon to Sat evening. That continued until he was incarcerated again this year in April to the end June at which time I continued with the Sat arrangement. After release we both are forbidden visitation. What can I do?

  4. Roberta Beckstrom says

    Recently my grandsons mother said my grandson is no longer allowed at my house because his father was drunk and is under the belief that he is drunk everyday, my grandson is 7 and has spent a good part of the last 5 years at my house until he started school then it was every weekend and sometimes during the week if his mother had to work, then we were told he will not be coming back, I do not know what to do, I would like my son to go back to court but he does not believe this will do any good since they already have a custody agreement for him to have his son every other weekend and she has decided to ignore this.

    • says

      This sounds like an issue between the father and mother of your grandchild. If your son needs legal assistance and can afford legal representation (or you intend to help him financially), he can contact us. I am also a bit confused about the situation so I will need to ask your son some specific questions about the current court order and what has been happening. I assume the case is in Southern California.

  5. Vicky says

    My sister adopted my grand daughter but won’t let me see her do I have any visitation rights? As her grand mother please help I miss her very much Cps wasn’t any help

  6. Melissa says

    I have a granddaughter who is a year old. My son and the mother are not married and have an on again off again relationship. I see my granddaughter as often as i can and have tried to maintain a decent relationship with her mother however recently she uses my granddaughter as a pawn. All i want ro do is be able to spend time with my granddaughter and give her the love she deserves. Where do I go frim here

  7. Jessica says

    my son has a son 4 yrs old. he is not married to the mother of the child. she lives in another state. and comes to California due to work and has child care for my grandson in California when
    she refuses to let my son to see his son, and ignores our calls etc.
    do I have a right to visit my grandson when she is working and visiting California?

  8. Angelina says

    Grandparents should have the right to have a relationship with their children’s children. What’s wrong with people. All they want to do is loves this child and I’m sure when it involves a deceased child or incarcerated one its even worse. It shouldn’t be about the adult but about the child. How can a Decent person get to know a child if the other parent wont allow it. How can you form a relationship if you never get that opportunity?

    • B. Robert Farzad says

      Angelina, thank you for commenting. You may be surprised to learn that many grandparents do not take the opportunity the Family Code gives them to have time with their grandchildren very seriously. In fact, it is rare that I see grandparents be willing to take a matter to court for such a cause. It is of course understandable to some extent because a court matter can cause a further division between grandparent and their own adult child but when that adult child cuts off all contact with the grandparents with whom the grandchild has otherwise had a nurturing and important relationship, what is the grandparent trying to preserve by failing to act? That is the dilemma.

  9. Veronica says

    My sister is currently going through a particularly long divorce for some unknown reason. Should be simple since there are no assets to be divided either physical or financial. The issue we believe is due to child custody. Her current lawyer is very unhelpful and almost never in communication. Currently she is struggling with her soon to be ex with child custody/support for their two children. He has never been supportive of either children or my sister. Likewise his parents have never shown any interest in the children up until the divorce proceedings started. They currently live in TX and travel back and forth from CA, TX and other parts of the world such as Korea and Germany. The ex father in law is very aggressive towards my sister and when they are in town to visit he accompanies his son for pick ups and drop offs. Each time he exits the vehicle and stands guard so to say and will intervene and speak for his son should my sister ask if the children have had lunch or if there is anything she should know about. The mother smokes weed for so called medical reasons and my sister is unaware if this is done in front of the children. There is much more to say but too much to put in writing. My sister is just at a point where she is being financially and emotionally drained. She would like to keep his parents at arms length from the children if possible since there was never really any relationship with them up until the past year. What can she bring up to her in my words useless lawyer?

    • B. Robert Farzad says

      Hi Veronica. Thank you for your comment here. We don’t give legal advice in the comment section of an article. Sounds like your sister may need to start interviewing new attorneys for her case. I hope it works out for her.

  10. Martha says

    My granddaughter is 9 years old and one of six siblings, she has lived with us all of her 9 years. Where my daughter and the five ranging from 8 to 7 months old move in with us at least twice a year due to dysfunction in their family dynamic. We have always claimed my granddaughter every year. My daughter has a tendency of emotionally bullying us with threats of taking her. Which she did yesterday when we finally put our foot down when once again she moved in for 3 months while filing for divorce. We have provided my granddaughter with a phone. She has repeatedly begged my husband and I to help her and pick her up. Although my daughter does not do drugs or alcohol she is emotionally stale. She has kicked one of the children and is living with her mother n law asking her future ex to move in together. My granddaughter is so advanced and is aware of how her mother is mentally abusing them. She has applied for assistance using our address. I have been active at their school and have contributed monetary donations. My neighbors as well as others know of my granddaughter always living with us. And how they are so unstable. We have always provided school clothes activities fees as well as shelter for them when required. Now my daughter is holding us emotionally hostage like with my grandaughter. The parents are 26 and mom 27, very young and verbally and physically abusive with one another an environment the 9 y old is not accustomed to at all. Can we obtain guardianship of the 9 y old with the texts as proof as well as her testimony of abuse? My husband and I are devastated and cannot bare to hear her brokenness and fear and pleads for us to help and rescue her. Please help in any way. I will so be greatful.

    • B. Robert Farzad says

      Martha, I am sorry to hear what your granddaughter is going through. You should definitely consult with an attorney about the options. Our firm doesn’t handle guardianship matters (since that is what you asked about) so we are not able to help you.

Leave A Comment

Comments are displayed publically and are not confidential, including the name you enter. Comments do not form any attorney-client relationship.