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Grandparents' Visitation Rights in California

Societies everywhere recognize the important role that grandparents play in grandchildren’s lives. Grandparents can provide love, moral support, guidance, and affection, and sometimes grandchildren need these things when they’re lacking in their lives for one reason or another. If you’re a grandparent who wants to petition the court for visitation or even custody, your grandchild is very fortunate to have you in their life.

Each state has adopted grandparents’ rights laws. In California, grandparents are entitled to seek visitation of their grandchildren, providing the following is true:

  • There was a pre-existing relationship between the grandparent and grandchild that established a bond. Meaning, the bond is strong enough that it’s in the child’s best interests to see their grandparents.

When a court decides to award visitation to grandparents, it must balance the child’s best interests with the parents’ rights to make decisions on behalf of their child. According to the California Courts, “In general, grandparents cannot file for visitation rights while the grandchild’s parents are married,” unless:

  • The parents do not live together,
  • One of the parents cannot be located and it’s been at least one month since he or she disappeared,
  • The grandchild does not live with either of their parents, or
  • A stepparent has adopted the grandchild.

To learn more about grandparents’ rights to visitation, read Sections 3100-3105 of the California Family Code. Under Section 3103(a) it explains: “the court may grant reasonable visitation to a grandparent of a minor child of a party to the proceeding if the court determines the visitation by the grandparent is in the best interests of the child.”

What if the Parents Cannot Care for My Grandchild?

Suppose you are the grandparent and you are either raising your grandchild, or you would like to because the parents are: unfit to care for the child because they are homeless, have a substance abuse problem, are absent, are abusive or neglectful, or are incarcerated. In these situations, you may be interested in becoming the child’s guardian. In California, when a non-parent wishes to have custody of the child (more than just visitation), it is referred to as “guardianship,” which involves a separate court process.

Need help with a child custody case in Encino or anywhere in the San Fernando Valley? Contact Cutter & Lax, Attorneys at Law today!


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