Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights?
Yes, grandparents can have visitation rights if the court determines that there was a pre-existing relationship between the grandparent and the child that has “engendered a bond,” and that it is in “the best interest of the child” to have a relationship with the grandparent. In plain English, that means that a judge, after hearing the evidence, determines that it is in the best interest of the child to continue to see his or her grandparents. The visitation, of course, has to be reasonable, and the parent(s) still retain the right to make decisions about their child.
As this process can be painful for all concerned, it may be in everyone’s best interest to try to resolve these issues out of court. Mediation between all parties is a good way to discuss the emotional needs and concerns of everyone involved and to work out a mutually agreeable solution. An experienced family law attorney can help you find a mediator that specializes in grandparent-grandchildren issues.
Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights Only If The Parents Are Divorced?
In general, grandparents cannot file for visitation rights while the grandchild’s parents are married. But there are exceptions, like:
- The parents are living separately;
• A parent’s whereabouts are unknown (and have been for at least a month);
• One of the parents joins the grandparent’s petition for visitation;
• The child does not live with either of his or her parents; or
• The grandchild has been adopted by a stepparent.
How Does A Grandparent Petition The Court For Relief?
In most situations, the parents of the child will already have an existing case pending before the court (i.e., dissolution of marriage, or custody/support case). If there is an already existing case, the grandparent must file a Motion for Joinder in order to be “joined” to the pending divorce/custody matter.
Under well-established statutory and case law, any party with physical custody or claiming custody or visitation rights with respect to a minor child of the parties’ relationship must be ordered joined. Under California Rules of Court section 5.24(e)(1):
“[T]he court must order that a person be joined as a party to the proceeding if the court discovers that person has physical custody or claims custody or visitation rights with respect to any minor child of the marriage, domestic partnership, or to any minor child of the relationship.” (Cal. Rules of Court §5.24(e)(1)(a).)
However, “before ordering the joinder of a grandparent of a minor child in the proceeding under Family Code section 3104, the court must take the actions described in section 3104(a). (Cal. Rules of Court §§5.24(e)(1)(b).), i.e.,
the court may grant reasonable visitation rights to the grandparent if the court does both of the following:
- (1) Finds that there is a preexisting relationship between the grandparent and the grandchild that has engendered a bond such that visitation is in the best interest of the child
- (2) Balances the interest of the child in having visitation with the grandparent against the right of the parents to exercise their parental authority.
If there is no dissolution of marriage or custody/support case pending before the Court, the grandparent must petition the court by filing his/her own individual petition for visitation rights (as opposed to petitioning to be joined to a pre-existing case).
What Are The Benefits Of Having A Grandparent-Child Relationship?
There are countless benefits from having a grandparent involved in a child’s life. First, there is an immediate biological linkage between the grandparent and the child. Second, the presence of grandparents in the formative years of children strongly helps in their character building. Third, grandparents are often the greatest supporters of the child’s interests because of their unconditional love for their grandchild.
Finally, grandparents are often the best teachers in the child’s life when it comes to cultural heritage and family history. Grandparents are a great source of the family history – precious knowledge to have.
How Can The Attorneys At Felix & Killen Assist You?
The attorneys at Felix & Killen have represented numerous clients in grandparent visitation matters. We are sensitive to the delicate issues that tend to arise in grandparent visitation cases, and seek to resolve issues with a minimum of conflict.
We can assist you in evaluating your case, potentially resolving your issue without court intervention, and, if necessary filing your petition and fighting for your rights. If you need help securing visitation with a grandchild, call us today!