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 knowledgeable Riverside County 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) 506-6654 or fill out a free case evaluation form today to take the first step.