Skip to main content

Grandparents can be an essential part of a family. In addition to providing much-needed babysitting and childcare services, grandparents are often a frequent source of advice and emotional support. Some grandparents also play a significant financial role in their extended families. What happens when parents decide to get divorced? Do grandparents have any rights to see or contact their grandchildren? Can grandparents request custody if they don’t think the parents are fit?

At Berenji & Associates, our family law attorneys understand the importance of a bond between a grandchild and a grandparent. When parents decide to get divorced, this important bond is often overlooked or forgotten. Fortunately, California law empowers grandparents with certain rights. If you are a grandparent who is worried about the future of your relationship with your grandchild, or your grandchild’s wellbeing, contact our Los Angeles family law attorneys today. We will review your case, answer the questions you have, and help you fight to assert and protect your rights.

When Can Grandparents See Their Grandchildren?

Grandparents usually don’t have a reason to assert their legal right to visitation unless the parents of their grandchildren decide to get a divorce. In fact, grandparents are generally prohibited from asserting their rights while their grandchildren’s parents are married. However, there are certain situations when a grandparent can take legal action to assert their rights, even when their grandchild’s parents are still legally married. A grandparent can assert his or her legal rights when:

  • The grandchild’s parents can’t be found;
  • Parents don’t have physical custody of the child
  • One or both parents are in prison;
  • The grandchild is adopted by a step-parent;
  • Parents have psychological issues that prevent from properly caring for the child;
  • Parents have drug and/or alcohol abuse problems that make them unfit to have custody; or
  • A parent joins the grandparent in filing a legal claim for visitation.

California Values the Relationship Between Grandchild and Grandparent

Over the past few decades, California courts have demonstrated that they understand the importance of a relationship between a grandchild and a grandparent. Courts are not required to grant visitation requests filed by grandparents, but often try to preserve the bond between a grandparent and a grandchild by awarding legal rights to visitation. The primary reason for this is that courts do their best to do what is in the best interest of the child. In most cases, this will mean changing that child’s life as little as possible and preserving all valuable relationships. A grandparent’s relationship with a grandchild is perhaps one of the most important relationships there is.

Balancing a Grandparent’s Request With a Parent’s Rights to Make Decisions

Grandparents will not automatically be granted visitation rights. A court is legally required to evaluate a petition for visitation and consider the best interests of the affected child. California Family Code Section 3104 requires a judge to focus on two primary issues: existing bond and the pros and cons of overriding parental rights.

Courts will be more likely to grant a petition for visitation if there is a pre-existing relationship between the grandparent and grandchild. Grandparents who want to secure visitation rights should be prepared to support their request with evidence of an established relationship. Evidence that may be helpful includes:

  • Photographs,
  • Video footage,
  • Receipts,
  • Statements from the grandchild,
  • Family input, and
  • Eyewitness testimony.

While courts want to preserve pre-existing relationships between a grandparent and grandchild, they may be hesitant to limit a parent’s ability to make decisions about their own child. A parent’s ability to make decisions about their child’s life is one of the most fundamental rights a parent has. A court will not take overruling this right lightly. However, courts have the ability to view family dynamics and situations in a neutral light. The court will weigh the benefits of maintaining contact between a grandparent and grandchild with the negatives of overruling a parent. Remember, courts will do what is in the best interests of the child. If keeping a child in contact with their grandparent is in that child’s best interest, the parent’s right will be infringed.

If you want to file a petition to secure visitation with your grandchild you may want to consider asking one of the child’s parents. A grandparent’s petition for visitation will always be stronger if one of the child’s parents signs on.

Using Mediation to Assert a Grandparent’s Rights

Filing a petition for visitation can be a stressful, time-consuming, and expensive process. Mediation is a great alternative dispute resolution tool that can allow you to get the results you want without the stress of a formal legal proceeding. Using mediation allows everyone involved to maintain control over the final outcome, minimize negative emotions, and limit the emotional trauma inflicted on the kids.

Using a licensed mediator, grandparents can sit down with a child’s parents and talk out their issues. The mediator will help both parties discuss their problems and work toward mutually-agreeable resolution. When parents and grandparents find common ground and agree on the terms of visitation they can set these rights in stone. The mediator will draw up a formal contract that, when signed, is legally binding on both parties. Grandparents will be entitled to see their grandchildren under the terms presented in the contract, and parents will be required to honor the agreement. If the grandparents or parents violate the terms of the agreement they could face substantial fines and civil penalties.

Family Law Attorneys Fighting to Protect Grandparent Rights

Is your child getting a divorce, and you’re afraid that you’ll slowly lose the right to see and visit with your grandchildren? Do you feel that your grandchild isn’t safe in the custody of his or her parents? As a grandparent in California, you are entitled to certain rights. At Berenji & Associates, we know that the bond you have with your grandchild is invaluable and that the sudden loss of this relationship could do irreversible damage to you and your grandchild. We will fight to protect your rights as a grandparent and make sure that your grandchildren are safe. Call our Los Angeles family law attorneys today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.