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 a free 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?

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