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Understanding grandparents' rights in California-Part I

Residents of California would probably agree that most grandparents wish to spend time with their grandchildren. However, legal provisions prevent many grandparents from filing for visitation rights in order to spend quality time with their grandchild.

Under California law, a grandparent has no right to file for visitation rights if the grandchild's parents are married. However, under certain circumstances, they can file for reasonable visitation rights. Once a grandparent files for visitation rights, the court may consider the grandparents' application for visitation rights.

While the grandchild's parents are still married, a grandparent can file for visitation rights if

  • the parents of the grandchild are living separately
  • the whereabouts of parents have been unknown for at least a month
  • either of the parents supports the grandparent's petition for visitation rights
  • the child is not living with either of the child's parents
  • the grandchild has been adopted by a stepparent

When deciding on the grandparent's petition for visitation rights, the court will determine whether there is any pre-existing relationship between the grandparent and the grandchild and whether granting visitation rights to a grandparent will be in the best interests of the child. While granting reasonable visitation rights to a grandparent, the court will also need to balance the best interests of the child with regard to the visitation rights of the parents and the grandparents.

If a court has granted visitation rights to a grandparent under the circumstances already mentioned here, and if the circumstances no longer apply, it is possible that the grandparents' rights will be revoked.

Source: Courts.CA.gov, "Visitation Rights of Grandparents," Accessed on March 11, 2015

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John T. Chamberlin, Attorney at Law
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