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 visitation is court-ordered visitation granted to a grandparent who has a significant contact with a grandchild and, as determined by the court, would not be harmful to order visitation to the grandparent.
Visitation can be granted to a grandparent who makes a request to the court for reasonable visitation with a grandchild. For the court to grant grandparent visitation, the court has to find:
- That there was a pre-existing relationship between grandparent and grandchild that has “engendered a bond;”
- That such a bond between grandparent and grandchild makes it so that visitation is in best interest of the grandchild.; and,
- 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.
Conditions to Award Visitation
Conditions for grandparent visitation rights include a determination of whether a parent is deceased, the child’s parents are divorced or separated, the whereabouts of one parent is unknown, or the child is not residing with either parent. In addition to determining that visitation is in the child’s best interests, the court must find that the grandparents had a preexisting relationship with the grandchild. The court must also balance visitation with the parents’ rights. If both parents agree that the court should not grant visitation to the grandchild, the court will presume that visitation is not in the child’s best interests. Adoption does not automatically cut off the visitation rights of grandparents.
When Parents are Living Together
In general, grandparents cannot file for visitation rights while the grandchild’s parents are married. But there are exceptions, like:
- The parents are living separately;
- A parent’s whereabouts are unknown (and have been for at least a month);
- One of the parents joins the grandparent’s petition for visitation;
- The child does not live with either of his or her parents; or
- The grandchild has been adopted by a stepparent.
If a grandparent has visitation through the courts, and things change and none of these exceptions apply any more, one or both parents can ask the court to end the grandparent’s visitation and the court must then end the grandparent’s visitation rights at that time.
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