What You Should Know About Grandparents’ Rights in California
Gaining custody of a child is already complicated for parents, so it can be even more difficult for a grandparent. While California family courts have clear guidelines when it comes to ensuring that parents have meaningful involvement in the care of their children, those same guidelines do not apply to grandparents.
If you are a grandparent who is concerned for the well-being of your grandchildren, you should consult with an experienced San Diego family law attorney to learn exactly what your rights are and what can be done to protect your relationships. At Mattis Law, A.P.C., we regularly handle complex child custody cases involving multiple family members, including grandparents. For a free consultation, call us now at (858) 458-9500.
Getting Visitation with Your Grandchild
The first question our legal team usually gets about grandparents’ rights revolves around visitation. We are pleased to inform you that according to California law, a grandparent has the ability to ask for reasonable visitation with a grandchild. When the parents are divorced or when one parent has died, grandparents can petition for visitation as long as two guidelines are met:
- There was a preexisting relationship between the grandparent and grandchild that has “engendered a bond.” Such a bond would make it in the best interests of the child to maintain a relationship with the grandparent.
- The court must balance the best interests of the child having a relationship with his or her grandparent against the rights of the parent(s) who have decision-making ability over the child.
While these rules apply when the parents are no longer married, in general, grandparents are not able to petition for visitation rights when the parents are still married, except under specific circumstances. These exceptions include when:
- The parents have separated and are living in different households.
- One parent’s whereabouts are unknown. In this case, it must be proven that the parents’ whereabouts have been unknown for a month or more. If this is concluded, the courts may decide the child is best left in the grandparent’s care.
- One of the parents joins with the petition. The court considers one parent’s consent when deciding grandparent visitation rights and the child’s best interest.
- The grandchild has been formally adopted by a stepparent.
How to Prove Your Visitation Case
You must prove to the California court that you have a solid, pre-existing relationship with your grandchild in order to be granted visitation rights. The courts must understand that the bond between you and your grandchild is in the best interest of the child and be able to reach an agreement against the rights of the grandchild’s parents. Reasonable grandparent visitation is at the court’s decision and is calculated based on the evidence presented in the case. Sometimes visitations are based on the conveniences, schedules, and lifestyles of the individuals involved.
How to Prove Your Custody Case
California puts the safety of a child first, so if you believe a child is in danger it is important to act quickly. California Family Code Section 3041 permits non-parents and family members, such as grandparents, to be granted custody of children if it is in the best interest of the children. For example, grandparents can ask the court for custody of their grandchildren if they can effectively prove:
- Child neglect and or abuse
- Parents or parents are suffering for mental health problems including substance abuse
- Parents are divorced and facing financial issues
- Parent or parents are incarcerated and unable to care for their children
Chances Of Winning Your Case
In California, you must prove that you have an “engendered bond” with your grandchild. This means that you have a strong continuing relationship that can benefit the child long term. The burden of proof is on the grandparent to provide to the court and must be sufficient enough to confirm a long-lasting and beneficial relationship. If you have never met your grandchild before, it is not likely that you will be able to request visitation.
Grandparents in Divorced Families
As the elders of the family, grandparents are often regarded with respect and love, but during the difficult time of a divorce emotions can run and it can be challenging for everyone involved. Due to the sensitivity of this delicate situation, the role of the grandparent is vital to the family unit. Grandchildren, especially, may need special attention during this period. During a divorce, it is important for grandparents to remember to:
- Support a beneficial relationship with their grandchildren
- Stay neutral
- Respect both parents
- Offer a safe space
Getting Custody of Your Grandchild
California law makes it possible for a grandparent to petition for permanent custody of a grandchild. The grandparent is normally required to show that the child’s health, safety, and well-being are currently in danger due to the abuse or neglect of one or more parent.
The danger to the child could be due to a parent’s drug addiction, alcohol abuse, physical abuse, or other compelling reason for which an immediate remedy is needed. In such cases, the court has the ability to terminate parental rights and award custody to a grandparent.
A California family court will need to see compelling evidence that a child would be best served by visitation or custody being provided to a grandparent. Courts tend to default to protecting parental rights, and if one of your grandchild’s parents refuses to let you see him or her, you must prove that this is the wrong decision. If you are a grandparent and you believe that your grandchildren are not being properly cared for, consult an experienced family law attorney right away.
Our team has a great deal of experience in protecting the rights of San Diego grandparents. The well-being of your grandchild is too important to leave to chance. In the past, we have been able to achieve better results than many thought possible, given the difficult circumstances. Call Mattis Law, A.P.C., today at (858) 458-9500 to learn more about how we may be able to help your family.