Grandparents are often a crucial part of the lives of their grandchildren, providing companionship, advice, and care, among other things. In a divorce situation or when one parent dies, sometimes grandparents are sadly shut out of the lives of their grandchildren. Grandparents often play many roles and children often look forward to spending time with their grandparents. After parents make the decision to get divorced, grandparents could be at risk of losing contact with their grandchildren.
However, California gives some protection for grandparents who want to make sure they are able to keep in contact with their grandchildren in the future. In other words, grandparents have the right to see and visit their grandchildren and these rights typically exist when the parents of a grandchild separate or divorce.
If this situation sounds familiar to you on a personal level, a grandparent's rights attorney in Los Angeles might be able to help you determine and enforce your rights to see and be involved in the lives of your grandchildren.
To give readers a better understanding about grandparent's rights, our California divorce attorneys are providing an overview below.
Asking for Visitation with Your Grandchildren
In some situations, your Los Angeles grandparent's rights attorney may suggest that you attempt to work out a visitation schedule with your grandchildren on your own before pursuing litigation to enforce your rights.
Doing so may help keep the peace with the children of your grandparents and might be an easier and faster way to see your grandchildren. Also, working out an agreement amicably can also be less expensive than going to court.
Also, mediation can be a great dispute resolution tool which is less expensive and much faster than going to a family law court. It also provides a safe space for parents and grandparents to discuss the issues and find a mutual agreement. Medication can also help keep positive emotions within the family and keep children from witnessing an ugly legal battle.
What Rights do California Grandparents Have?
If your attempts to avoid litigation and still visit your grandchildren are unsuccessful, your next step is to seek an order and enforcement from the family court.
Keep in mind that per California's Family Code § 3100-3105 if the parents of your grandchildren are still married, the court is unlikely to accept a petition for visitation unless there are extenuating circumstances such as:
- A separation of their parents
- The incarceration of one parent
- If the child is not living with either parent
- One parent is deceased
- Child's parents can't be located
In cases where one parent is no longer living, the grandparents on that side of the family may be more likely to be granted visitation rights by the court. Although, the court will consider the wishes of both of the deceased parent and the living parent when approving or denying grandparent visitation rights.
If divorce or other family law proceedings are already taking place, grandparents can file for visitation rights by joining the already existing lawsuit.
After filing for visitation rights to see their grandchildren, grandparents must serve a copy of the petition to each parent, stepparent, or anyone else who has physical custody of the child.
In California, these cases must first go to mediation before being heard by the court. If the parents and grandparents cannot reach an agreement through mediation, the case will be determined by the family court.
Determining Grandparent Visitation in Court
The judge in a grandparent visitation case is required to begin the case with the mindset that grandparents should not be granted visitation rights if both parents agree that they should not have the right to see their grandchildren.
They need to balance the rights of the parents to make reasonable decisions for their children against the grandparent's potential rights to visitation.
It is the responsibility of the grandparents to prove to the judge that visiting them is in the best interests of the child. To make a determination, the courts will consider:
- The safety, wellbeing and general health of the child
- Any history of domestic abuse by the grandparents seeking custody or visitation
- The grandparent's use of alcohol and drugs
- The type and regularity of contact between the grandparents seeking custody and the child
- The opinion of the child if they are at least 14 years of age
- The existing relationship between the child and the grandparents
The “best interests” standard is used not only in California but in many other states. It is the job of the judge to look at the preexisting relationship of the child with the grandparents and other factors in order to determine if it is in the best interest of the child to have visitation with their grandparents.
A well-versed grandparent's rights lawyer has the experience necessary to show a judge why it is beneficial for a child to see their grandparents and for the grandparents to have regular involvement in the life of their grandchild.
Grandparents need to know that even if they are granted visitation rights, these orders are not guaranteed to be permanent and can change depending on the situation and many different factors.
Los Angeles Grandparent's Rights Lawyer
Family law courts are usually more inclined to approve a grandparent's request for visitation when there is evidence of a true bond between the grandparent and grandchild. The judge could even ask for witness statements, review photos and videos, and might even talk directly to the child.
Keep in mind a grandparent doesn't need to file a legal request to visit their grandchildren if the parents already agree. A family court judge won't normally override the decision of parent's unless they are shown significant evidence to support a grandparent's case. While it is not unheard of for California family courts to grant visitation rights to grandparents, obtaining these rights is sometimes an uphill battle.
You could increase your chances of success by hiring a knowledgeable grandparent's rights attorney to represent your interests. Use our online contact form to schedule your consultation with our grandparent's rights lawyers.
Furman & Zavatsky is a team of experienced Los Angeles divorce and family law attorneys located in the San Fernando Valley area of LA County at 15821 Ventura Blvd #690 Encino, CA 91436. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (818) 528-3471.