Visitation Rights of Grandparents in California

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Granting Visitation Rights to Grandparents in California

California is fairly permissive when it comes to giving court orders regarding visitation of grandchildren by grandparents.

In deciding whether to grant visitation rights to anyone, a court will always place the interests of the child first. For a court to order visitation, you must show that, in doing so, it is in the child’s best interest.

The Balancing Test Used by the Courts

To grant visitation to grandparents, a California court will balance the interests of the child against the traditional right of the parents.

There are three basic situations in which grandparents are given legal right to visit their grandchildren:

  1. When a parent has died, a court will grant visitation rights to a close relative of that parent if it would be in the best interest of the child.
  2. If the parents divorce, a grandparent may join in the divorce proceedings to seek visitation rights or file a separate action. Visitation will be granted if it is in the best interest of the child.
  3. If the child’s parents are not married, the grandparents may seek visitation rights.

The third situation is slightly more complex than the other two situations. If both parents or the parent with sole custody objects to visitation, then the court will balance certain interests to see if visitation rights should be granted. There must be a strong, pre-existing relationship between the grandparent seeking visitation and the child. Afterwards, the court must balance the authority of the parents to prevent visitation against the interests of the child.

General Presumption to Allow Parents to Make Their Own Decisions

The court will presume that fit parents always act in the best interests of their children. Thus, this presumption weighs against the grandparents seeking visitation rights. The grandparents will have to present significant evidence that visitation would advance the interests of the child to overcome this presumption and obtain visitation rights. 

Consulting an Attorney

If you believe having a relationship with your grandchild is in the best interest of your grandchild, then a family law attorney can help you get visitation rights even if your grandchild’s parent or guardian objects.

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Last Modified: 04-03-2014 12:35 PM PDT

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