Under California law, a grandparent has the right to make a request to the court for reasonable visitation with a grandchild. A California court will take into the pre-existing relationship between grandparent and grandchild, that has “engendered a bond,” and will balance the best interest of the child in having visitation with a grandparent with the rights of the parents to make decisions about their child.
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Grandparent Grandchild Visitation
A grandparent grandchild visitation can be awarded if the grandparent has an interest in the child’s welfare. Grandparents may also petition for visitation with their grandchildren in the following situations:
- A parent is deceased (Fam C §3102; Rich v Thatcher (2011) 200 CA4th 1176, 1181; Hoag v Diedjomahor (2011) 200 CA4th 1008, 1013);
- A dissolution or other family law proceeding is pending in which child custody is already at issue (Fam C §3103);
- The parents are not married to one another, including after a marital dissolution (see Fam C §3104(b); Marriage of Harris(2004) 34 C4th 210, 211); or
- The parents are married but are living separate and apart on a permanent or indefinite basis and meet numerous other statutory criteria. Fam C §3104(b).
Grandparents can petition for visitation when a child whose biological parent is deceased has been adopted by a stepparent or grandparent. Numerous appellate courts have found that in order for grandparents to overcome a fit parent’s decision to deny grandparent visitation, they must overcome a presumption that the parent’s decision is in the best interest of his children.
A court may establish grandparent grandchild visitation only if it finds that there is a preexisting bond between grandparent and child such that visitation is in the child’s best interest, and balances the child’s interest in visitation against the parents’ right to exercise parental authority. This applies only if the parents are not married, including after a marital dissolution. It also can apply, however, to married parents if any of the following circumstances exist:
- They are living separately and apart on a permanent or indefinite basis;
- One parent has been absent for over a month without the other knowing the whereabouts of the absent parent;
- One parent joins in the petition with the grandparents;
- The child is not residing with either parent;
- The child has been adopted by a stepparent; or
- One parent is incarcerated or involuntarily institutionalized.
If a change of circumstances occurs such that none of the above circumstances exists, one or both parents may move to terminate grandparent visitation, and the court must grant the termination.
Grandparents seeking visitation rights might be surprised to find out that their rights to see their grandchildren are very limited. Establishing grandparent grandchild visitation is a complicated matter. A person seeking to file an action in court should consider hiring an experienced attorney to represent them and their rights.
The court will use a standard called best interest of the child. A licensed attorney can help represent to the Court the best interests of the child and establish a pattern that shows the Court a strong bond between grandparent and grandchild.
Because your rights are very limited, finding the right attorney to represent your case is imperative. If you are looking to establish visitation rights with your grandchild, consider calling the number listed below to schedule for a free consultation.
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