In some families, grandparents are just as vital as the parents. In others, grandparents may only come into their grandchildren’s lives at holidays and important events. Nevertheless, grandparents have certain rights, similar to the custody rights that parents have. California law does not strongly protect many of these rights, but you may be able to petition a court to enforce rights like visitation or even full child custody rights in some situations.
If you are a grandparent who needs help getting access to or time with your grandchild, consider taking your case to a family law attorney. The Ventura grandparents’ rights attorneys at The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth may be able to help. For a free consultation on your case, contact our Ventura law offices today at (805) 643-5555.
Grandparents’ Rights in California
Grandparents may run into disputes with their children or their child’s spouse or significant other. In some fights, children may go so far as to bar their parents from seeing their grandchildren. However, California law recognizes the importance of the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren. Courts may order visitation rights so the grandparent can still foster that relationship – even if the parent objects.
Section 3104 of the California Family Code lays out the rules for this kind of visitation. First and foremost, the court can only grant a grandparent visitation if it is in the child’s best interests. If both parents think the grandparent should not see the child, there is a presumption that it is not in the child’s best interest, and the grandparent needs proof to overcome this presumption.
To prove that the child needs their grandparents, the case must meet two conditions:
- The grandparent must have a “preexisting relationship” with the child that has “engendered a bond” between them, and
- The interest in having the grandparent visit the child must balance against the parent’s ability to “exercise their parental authority.”
This first condition means that there must have been some relationship that was put to an end. A grandparent that is a relative stranger or was never in their grandchild’s life will likely fail to get visitation rights. This second condition requires that the court does not step on the parent’s rights too harshly. It is the parent’s choice to say they want the grandparents out of the picture – but the courts can overcome that authority if the benefit to the child is stronger.
Limits on Grandparent Visitation Rights
Courts recognize that families have different structures. However, they see marriage as a strong bond. If the child’s parents are married and both agree the grandparent should not see the child, the court will not grant visitation to a grandparent. If the parents are married, but there are certain family struggles or the parents disagree on the grandparent’s visitation rights, courts can still award visitation. If the parents are married and any of these factors are present, the petition for visitation rights can still be filed:
- The parents live separately;
- One parent has been absent for over a month without the spouse knowing where they are;
- One parent joins the grandparent in the petition;
- The child lives away from both parents;
- The child was adopted by a stepparent; or
- One of the parents is in jail or a mental health institution.
If this situation ends, and both parents are back to agreeing the grandparents should be out of the child’s life, they can move to terminate grandparent visitation.
No visitation rights can ever be granted if there is a protective order against the person seeking visitation. This means that abusive grandparents cannot see their grandchildren.
Can Grandparents Adopt Their Grandchildren in California?
In some families, the grandparents raise the children as though they were the parents. Whether this is because the birth parents are incarcerated, deceased, or absent, grandparents may be able to adopt their grandchildren and set themselves as the official, legal parents.
Like many legal issues dealing with children, the ultimate question is the best interests of the child. If the parents are negligent, uncaring, absent, or incarcerated, courts may agree that it is in the best interests of the child to strip the parents’ custody rights.
If the child does not have 2 legal parents because one has been stripped of custody, the grandparents may be able to adopt the child. If the parents willingly relinquish custody to the grandparents, this may be a smoother transition, but it can be fought in court.
If the parents die or temporarily relinquish custody, the grandparents may be appointed legal guardians of the child. This allows them to act like a legal parent, but may be a cheaper and more effective choice than adoption. Discuss your case with an attorney to understand the options in your specific case.
Ventura Grandparents’ Visitation and Adoption Attorneys
If you want to enforce visitation rights with your grandchild, want to adopt your grandchildren, or want to act as their legal guardian, talk to an attorney. Many people are very strong-willed about their children and their parental authority, and it may take a court order to enforce the best decisions for your grandchild. For a free consultation on your case, contact the Ventura family lawyers at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today at (805) 643-5555.