Talk about visitation rights usually only extends to the parents of a child, but what non-immediate family, especially grandparents? In some cases, extended family may have visitation rights according to California state law.
Given that across the U.S., over 13 million children are living with their grandparents, it’s important to know the rights of grandparents when it comes to visitation.
Let’s take a closer look at the rights of grandparents in family law:
Petitioning for Visitation Rights
If one or more parents deny grandparents access to visit their children, in some cases, the grandparents may petition the court for visitation.
To successfully petition, grandparents must prove that they had a pre-existing relationship with the child before the guardianship dispute and that it would be in the best interest of the child to have a relationship with them.
Proving a “pre-existing relationship” can be difficult, as courts may consider the amount of time spent with the grandchild, how often contact was maintained, and any special bonding that may have occurred between them.
In order to prove your case and earn visitation rights, it’s important to work with an experienced family law attorney in your area. An attorney can help you understand the laws in your state and assist you in petitioning the court for visitation rights.
When Grandparents Can Request Visitation Rights
Here are some examples of situations where grandparents can petition for visitation rights:
- If both parents of a child are deceased. Grandparents may also be able to request guardianship in this situation.
- If both parents are alive, but not legally married to each other or are living separately. In this case, the paternal grandparent(s) may request visitation rights from the father, and the maternal grandparent(s) may request visitation rights from the mother.
- If a parent’s whereabouts are unknown. Under California law, a parent’s whereabouts must be unknown for at least a month before grandparents can file for visitation rights.
- One of the parents joins the grandparent’s petition for visitation. If either parent joins the grandparent’s petition, the court may grant visitation rights.
- The child has been adopted by a stepparent. Keep in mind that the adoptive parent may have a say in visitation rights.
- The child does not live with either of his or her parents. In this case, the legal guardian may have a say in grandparent visitation rights.
In general, it’s important to remember that—apart from the exceptions above—grandparents cannot file for visitation rights while the grandchild’s parents are married.
experienced family law attorney in your area. An attorney can help you understand the laws in your state and assist you in petitioning the court for visitation rights, if necessary.
What Responsibilities Come with Visitation Rights?
Typically, visitation rights do not come with any legal responsibilities. However, if the grandparents have been given custody of the child, then they will have all of the same responsibilities as the child’s parents.
Grandparents will have the right to visit the child as ordered by the court and the legal guardians must allow this to happen. The visitation schedule will be set by the court and both parties must stick to it.
What Factors Does the Court Consider?
The court will always consider what is in the best interest of the child when making a decision about visitation rights. Some of the factors the court may consider include:
- The child’s age
- The child’s relationship with their grandparents
- The child’s relationship with their parents
- The parents’ reasons for denying visitation
- The child’s wishes (if the child is old enough to express a preference)
- The grandparents’ ability to care for the child
- The distance between the homes of the grandparents and the child
- Any history of abuse or neglect by the grandparents
- Any other factors that the court deems relevant
Under What Circumstances Will a Petition Be Approved?
The best interest of the child is always taken into consideration when making a decision about visitation rights. The court will also look at the relationship between the grandparent and child, as well as whether or not it’s in the best interest of the child to have a relationship with the grandparent.
California law says that “to give a grandparent reasonable visitation with a grandchild, the court has to:
- Find that there was a pre-existing relationship between grandparent and grandchild that has “engendered a bond.” This means that there is such a bond between grandparent and grandchild that visitation is in best interest of the grandchild.
- Balance the best interest of the child in having visitation with a grandparent with the rights of the parents to make decisions about their child.”
In some cases, the court may find that it’s not in the best interest of the child to have a relationship with the grandparents. This could happen if the grandparents have a history of abuse or neglect, or if there is a significant distance between the homes of the grandparents and the child.
Have More Questions? Call Us at Monarch Family Law
If you are a grandparent who is seeking visitation rights, it’s important to speak to a family law attorney who can help you understand your legal rights and options.
At Monarch Family Law, we have extensive experience handling visitation cases and we are here to answer your questions and help you through this process. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.