Grandparent Rights to Visitation in California

cmelcher

Does a grandparent have grandchild visitation rights in California? What if one of the parents is not involved in the child’s like, is that parent’s parents (aka the grandparents) still able to visit with the grandchild? What if out of animosity, one parent has demanded that the grandparents not be able to visit with the child? Do grandparents have rights in a California divorce and/or child custody dispute?

In most circumstances, parents have the right to determine their child’s education, medical treatment, religion, lifestyle, and general welfare.  This means that the parent determines whether grandparents have access to grandchildren. Under California law, there is a rebuttable presumption that parents make all decisions for their minor children.  The term rebuttable essentially means that the grandparent must overcome the legal presumption that parents make all choices, including those relating to their ability to see their grandchildren.

If parents refuse to let a grandparent visit, the grandparents can ask for visitation with their grandchildren (in some circumstances). First, the judge will look for a pre-existing bond between grandparent and grandchild. Then the judge will balance the best interest of the child in having visitation with a grandparent against the rights of the parents to make decisions about their child.

Generally speaking, grandparent visitation orders are only available if:

  1. the parents are living separately,
  2. one parent has been missing for over a month,
  3. one parent joins in the petition for visitation,
  4. the child does not live with either parent, or
  5. the child has been adopted by a stepparent.

To request visitation rights, grandparents join the ongoing case (divorce, child custody determination, etc.) between the parents. However, if there is not an ongoing case, they can file a “Complaint for Grandparent Visitation.” An experienced family lawyer in Los Angeles can explain this in further detail.

If there is an ongoing divorce or parentage case between the parents, grandparents can file a “Petition for Joinder” under that same case number. Once the grandparents have joined the case, they can file a Request for Order asking for visitation As you can see, this process is quite involved and can be overwhelming.

Sometimes, grandparents have strong bonds with their grandchildren that should not be broken. Other times, certain grandparents should not have visitation rights. To discuss your specific situation, contact the expert Los Angeles family attorneys at Walzer Melcher LLP today.