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San Diego Grandparent Rights Attorneys

Grandparent Rights in California

Grandparents often share a special bond with their grandchildren. However, there are times when this bond is hard to maintain because of family issues. A death in the family, a strained relationship, or moving away can take that bond away from grandparents.

California provides help to grandparents who find themselves cut out of the grandchildren's lives. If you're a grandparent who needs to establish visitation rights to see your grandchild, contact Mattis Law, A.P.C.

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Client Testimonial

"We, like many people, are not familiar with navigating the court system, the law and our rights as a parent and grandparents...They have put our family at ease during this difficult time."

- Jeanine from Google

Visitation with Grandchildren in San Diego

Grandparents DO NOT automatically have visitation rights with their grandchildren.

The law assumes that a parent's wish to keep the child away from a grandparent is legitimate. The grandparent must show that such visitation would benefit the child.

Grandparents can petition for child visitation rights in the following circumstances:

  • Parents are separated
  • Parent's location is unknown
  • Child doesn't live with either parent
  • Child was adopted by a stepparent

In general, grandparents CANNOT file for child visitation rights if the parents are married. If one parent has lost legal rights to the child as a result of stepparent adoption, California grandparents still have visitation rights, but they need to petition for visitation.

There are also times when a Grandparent may wish to fight for custodial rights if parents are incapable of caring for their children, are incarcerated, or have passed away without leaving behind a custody plan.

No matter your situation, a San Diego family law attorney at Mattis Law, A.P.C. can help.

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Petitioning for Visitation Rights

To begin filing for visitation in a San Diego County Court, you will need to first determine if there is already an open family law case being considered by the court, such as a divorce or change in custody rights. If there is already an open case, you may include your petition for visitation in that case. If not, you will need to open your own, separate case.

California courts do not have a specific form for filing for grandparent visitation, but there are Family Law Facilitator (FLF) offices in San Diego that can help you in preparing a case. They cannot represent you in court, however, so it is best to speak to a San Diego family law attorney to prepare your case.

When preparing these forms, you will need to include a planned schedule for visitation and why you are requested visitation. A California court may grant a Grandparent visitation rights if:

  • The grandparent demonstrates that their bond with the child is in the child’s best interests; AND
  • Visitation does not violate the parents’ ability to make decisions about their child.

Once these forms have been prepared, your attorney or an FLF office can review the documents. You will also need to make four copies: one to file with the county clerk, one for your records, and two for the child’s parents. All of these forms will need to be presented to the San Diego county clerk and must be marked “FILED” to be valid. After filing the petition, you will be assigned a court date to state your case before a family law judge. In some cases, the courts may schedule a mediator date for you to discuss the matter with the child’s parents and a mediator.

Prior to your court date, you will need to serve each parent with a copy of your petition, as well as a Responsive Declaration to Request for Order (Form FL-320) and any other additional forms that the judge may request. This form will allow both parents to consent or dispute the petition. Your attorney can help facilitate the serving of these forms, but generally they must be served by an individual 18-years of age or older and CANNOT be served by you.

In addition, you will also need the individual who served the forms to fill out at Proofs of Service that demonstrates that you did serve each parent with the petition. You should also have this form reviewed by your attorney to ensure that it was filled out correctly and all necessary information is included.

Finally, you will attend a court hearing with a family law judge to determine whether you will receive visitation or not. Your attorney should attend as well. As mentioned early, you may be required to attend a mediation to discuss the terms of visitation with the child’s parents.

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Custody Rights in California

Custody rights for grandparents are significantly more complicated than petitioning for visitation, though it is possible. Grandparents have two ways to seek custody rights: adoption and guardianship.

Here are the differences between the two:


  • Parents still have rights to make decisions about what's best for kids
  • Parents have visitation and contact rights
  • Guardianship can end and grandchildren returned to parents if the court decides parents are capable of raising kids
  • Guardians are supervised and have to check in with the court


  • Parent's rights to make decisions about their children are ended
  • Parents have no rights to visitation or contact
  • Adoption parents aren't under court supervision

To apply for custody, San Diego courts must first evaluate the relationship between the parent and the child. If they find that the parent is unfit to raise their child, the courts may determine that the child be fostered with a family member, such as a Grandparent, instead of the parents. At this point, the courts will review your relationship with your grandchild and determine if it is in the child’s best interests.

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Common Questions About Grandparent Visitation Rights in San Diego

What if my grandchild moves away from California?

What happens if my adult child dies?

What if my grandchild is adopted?

What if I am the primary caretaker and my child's parent takes them away? Do I have visitation rights?

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California Family Law Attorneys Assisting Grandparents in Southern California

Mattis Law, A.P.C. fights to protect the rights of grandparents trying to keep a relationship with their grandchildren (including through third-party visitation). With one call to our office, we can get the facts of your case and determine what your next steps should be.

In these situations, we make sure cases progresses quickly. We can file for immediate visitation and get your relationship with your grandchildren back where it should be. Navigating the legal process is overwhelming for many grandparents, but help is available.

Don't risk the well-being of your grandchild to a less experienced attorney. Contact Mattis Law, A.P.C. today at (858) 328-4400 to schedule your initial consultation.

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Additional Information

(858) 328-4400

Mattis Law, A.P.C.
11455 El Camino Real, Suite 470
San Diego, California 92130
Office: (858) 328-4400

Our Firm Services The Following California Areas:
San Diego, La Jolla, Del Mar, Carmel Valley, Rancho Santa Fe, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Pacific Beach, and Mission Beach.

Mattis Law, A.P.C. is a San Diego, California firm practicing exclusively in the area of domestic relations law. We handle a wide range of matters including divorce, child custody, and child support. Whatever your situation we can be of assistance. Feel free to contact us today.

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