People often think of couples as being the only parties affected during
divorce; they rarely stop to consider the effects that a separation can
have on grandparents and children. As family dynamics shift and living
situations change, the relationship and level of time spent between a
child and his or her grandparents can be compromised, putting grandparents
at risk of no longer being able to play an active role in their grandchildren’s
lives. But what legal rights to grandparents have during divorce?
In the state of California, grandparents may petition with the courts for
reasonable visitation with a grandchild under certain conditions. In order
to give a grandparent visitation rights, the courts must:
- Establish that there was a pre-existing relationship between the grandparent
and grandchild and that guarding this relationship is in the child’s
best interests; and
- Balance the child’s best interests to have visitation with a grandparent
and the parents’ rights to make decisions on their child’s behalf.
Generally speaking, grandparents may not seek visitation rights while their
grandchild’s parents are still married unless the parents are living
separately, the whereabouts of one of the parents has been unknown for
at least a month, one of the parents joins the grandparent in their visitation
petition, the child is not living with either parent, or the grandchild
has been adopted by a stepparent.
Factors Influencing Grandparent Visitation Cases
All grandparent visitation cases are automatically sent to mediation, with
a judge retaining the right to issue a decision in the event that grandparents
and parents cannot come to an agreement. If both parents agree that grandparent
visitation should not be involved, the courts will side with the parents
unless the grandparent or grandparents are able to show that visitation
would be in the child’s best interests.
The courts will consider the following when issuing a decision:
- The child’s safety, health, and developmental wellbeing
- Histories of violence or substance abuse by any parties seeking visitation
- The nature and frequency of contact between the grandparents and child
- The child’s wishes, if older than age 14
Can Grandparents Win Custody?
California courts also allow grandparents to seek custody of a grandchild
in situations where neither parent is fit to have custody. In these situations,
judges will first attempt to place a child in the care of someone in the
child’s residence. Since many children whose parents are unfit or
unwilling to provide care live with grandparents, many California grandparents
are granted custody for this reason.
If you are a grandparent and are looking to petition for visitation or
custody rights of your grandchild, it is important you consult with a
Riverside grandparents’ rights attorney from Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich to review your legal options
in detail. Backed by more than 50 years of experience and the expertise of a
certified family law specialist within our ranks (Attorney Danica Hanich), we have what it takes to help
you pursue the best possible outcome for your situation.
Call (951) 687-6003 or
fill out a free case evaluation form today to take the first step.