Grandparents and their grandchildren often become close and develop a meaningful relationship that both parties cherish. In some cases, these relationships may be more like parent-child relationships than one that is removed by a generation. As a result, the law recognizes that in some circumstances grandparents have the right to visit with their grandchildren and be part of their lives.
Unfortunately, sometimes issues between a child’s parents or other circumstances make it impossible or difficult for grandparents to see their grandchildren, causing both parties significant issues. For example, if a grandparent had a close relationship with his or her grandchild, and the parent who is not the child of the grandparent was awarded sole custody in a divorce, the custodial parent may want to sever ties with the family of his or her former spouse.
In these and similar situations, an attorney may be able to help establish visitation rights for grandparents.
California Law Recognizes Visitation Rights for Grandparents in Certain Circumstances
Under California Family Code Section 3104, upon receiving a petition, a court may award a grandparent of a minor child “reasonable visitation rights” if it:
- Finds that there was a preexisting relationship between the grandparent and the grandchild that has engendered a bond such that visitation is in the best interest of the child, and
- Balances the interest of the child having visitation with the grandparent against the right of the parents to exercise parental authority
Importantly, a petition for grandparent visitation rights cannot be filed when the child’s parents are living together unless one of the following conditions exists:
- The parents are not living apart permanently or for an indefinite period of time
- One of the child’s parents has been absent for a month and his or her whereabouts are unknown
- A parent joins the petition with the grandparent seeking visitation rights
- The child is not living with either parent
- The child has been adopted by a stepparent
- One of the parents in involuntarily institutionalized or is incarcerated
Because grandparents’ rights cases are often complicated, anyone thinking of pursuing visitation rights related to a grandchild should speak to an attorney as soon as possible.
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