The state of California provides grandparents with certain rights, but what do those rights include? Do you have the right to see your grandchildren if their parent or guardian doesn’t want you to? How do you enforce your rights?
An experienced family law attorney can help you define and enforce your rights in various situations. The facts of each case often determine what rights are available, but here are some general guidelines.
Grandparents’ Rights are More Limited Than They Used to Be
Courts in California frequently used to award grandparents the ability to visit with their grandchildren even if the children’s parents objected and did not want the grandparents to be a part of the children’s lives. However, a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court required states to give more power to parents, ruling that parents have the final say when it comes to their children’s upbringing.
As a result, many states, including California, enacted new statutes imposing limits on the grandparents’ visitation rights. In some cases, grandparents also have the right to seek custody of their grandchildren, but those rights are also severely restricted.
Two-Step Process to Gain Visitation Rights
In order to be able to exercise the right to visit with your grandchild over the objection of the child’s parents, you need to satisfy two requirements. First, you must show that a situation exists that gives you the legal right to request visitation. Once you’ve satisfied the first element, then you must demonstrate that it is in the child’s best interests to grant you visitation rights. Because parents have so much control over their children’s lives, courts can only override their choices in very specific situations.
When a Grandparent is Allowed to Seek Visitation in California
To have the opportunity to demonstrate that grandparents should receive visitation rights, one of the following situations must exist:
- The child’s parent (through whom the grandparents are related) has passed away
- The child’s parents are divorced or living apart on an indefinite basis
- One of the child’s parents has been gone for more than a month
- One parent supports the grandparents’ request for visitation rights
- A stepparent has adopted the child
- One of the child’s parents is confined in prison or an institution
- The child does not live with either parent
If a grandparent gains visitation but the condition that qualified them to apply for visitation ceases to exist, the parent who objects to visitation can ask the court to terminate the grandparent’s rights. If a child’s parent is deceased and the child has been adopted by someone other than a stepparent or grandparent, then the grandparent is not in a position to seek visitation.
Proving That it is in the Child’s Best Interests to Grant Visitation
The law presumes that it is not in the child’s best interests to award visitation to a grandparent when one of the child’s parents objects to that visitation. Therefore, grandparents need to work hard to overcome this presumption and show why visitation serves the best interests of their grandchild. It is important to focus on how the child will suffer if the relationship is lost, rather than focusing on any detriment to the grandparent. The court will make decisions on the basis of the child’s interests only, so it does no good to point out how the loss of the relationship affects the grandparents.
Specifically, the court will need to see evidence of a preexisting relationship between the child and grandparent, and that relationship must have created such a bond between them that removing that relationship would be detrimental to the child. Once a grandparent has established that such a bond exists, the court weighs the child’s interests in having continued contact against the objecting parent’s right to exercise parental authority.
Negotiating a Solution
In many cases, when a parent objects to visitation by a grandparent, filing a lawsuit only makes the relationships worse, and it can be harmful to the child in the long run. Often it works better to have an attorney or mediator help family members to reach their own agreement on the subject. Moderated discussions between family members often help everyone understand the underlying nature of the conflict so that they can resolve issues or reach a compromise that allows for continued positive relationships in the future.
Talk to Holstrom, Block & Parke APLC About How We Could Help You Gain the Right to See Your Grandchildren
A child’s life is enriched through contact with family members, including grandparents. At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, our team of Certified Family Law Specialists understand the most effective methods to help grandparents remain a part of their grandchildren’s lives. We invite you to call us at 855-426-9111 or schedule a consultation online to learn more about the ways we can assist in gaining visitation rights.