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What should I know about grandparents' rights in California?

Child custody and visitation in California can be a complex and difficult matter to deal with. It can be more complicated when the parents are not the only ones who believe they should have the right to spend time with the child. In many instances, grandparents are an integral part of the child's life or are outright raising the child. Grandparents who want to have visitation with a grandchild must be aware of state law related to this matter.

In California, the grandparent can request reasonable visitation with a grandchild if certain criteria are met. The court must find that there was a pre-existing relationship between them and a bond must have been created with the best interests of the child hinging on continuing that relationship. The court must also find a balance between the best interests of the child and the rights of the parents to decide on such matters for their children.

Grandparents can file for visitation rights after the parents have divorced, but they can also file if the parents are still married in the following circumstances: if the parents live separately; if a parent's whereabouts are unknown and this has been the case for a minimum of one month; if a parent joins in the grandparent's petition; if the child is not residing with either parent; or if the grandchild was adopted by a stepparent.

For a grandparent to seek visitation with the child, he or she must do the following: determine if there is a family court case open; fill out the necessary forms; have the forms reviewed; make three copies of the forms; file them with the court clerk; get a date to go to court of have mediation; serve the papers on the parents; file proofs of service; and go to court. When the judge decides on the matter, a court order will be issued.

Grandparents who would like custody of or visitation rights with their grandchild should know the various requirements for making this a reality. Since there are many emotions and difficult issues to navigate when grandparents are seeking these rights, it is essential to have help from an attorney who understands all aspects of child custody and visitation.

Source: courts.ca.gov, "Visitation Rights of Grandparents," accessed Feb. 6, 2018

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