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.
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 a free consultation. We are ready to help you.