Grandparents have visitation rights in California. With changing family dynamics where grandparents are taking an increasingly active role in raising grandchildren, California law has evolved right along with the changing cultural landscape. This is a recognition that contact and communication between grandparents and grandchildren is beneficial to the child and at times this frequent and close contact is in the child’s best interest.
Not Just For Grandparents
Such recognized visitation rights extend not only to grandparents, but also to other relatives and non-parents, including foster parents, stepparents, or caregivers.
So where once a parent could deny grandparent visitation and have the final say, nowadays the grandparents can contest the parent’s refusal by asserting their legal right to visitation pursuant to Sections 3102, 3103 and 3104 of the California Family Code which allows relatives to petition for visitation over the objection of the refusing parent or parents.
To learn more about your rights call a grandparent visitation attorney at (916) 250-1610.
Grandparent Visitation Statutes
Section 3102 contemplates a situation where one of the child’s parents has passed away, and the surviving parent refuses to allow the grandparents or other relatives visitation right with their child. It bears emphasizing that in making a decision under a Section 3102 petition, the courts will take into consideration the wishes of both the surviving spouse and the deceased spouse, and will ultimately make a decision based on the best interests of the child.
Under Section 3103, grandparents can become involved during the pendency of a divorce proceeding by filing a petition for joinder. This makes the grandparent or relative a party in the divorce case, and if the court grants the petition for joinder, they can then ask the court to legally grant them visitation rights.
Section 3104, on the other hand, allows for the filing of a petition for visitation specifically for grandparents after the divorce proceedings are finalized. This means that the grandparent will not be a party to the divorce, but will instead be bringing the case in their own name, where the “adversary” or “opposing party” will be the refusing parent.
Right to Visitation is Not Automatic
It bears stressing that grandparents do not have automatic custodial or visitation rights to their grandchildren; filing a lawsuit to petition for visitation under the above statutes will not automatically guarantee that the family court will grant a grandparent access to the child.
The parent or parents who have primary custody of their children have the right and responsibility to care for the child and to make decisions regarding the child’s best interests. This may involve refusing to allow grandparents or other relatives’ visitation rights. The court will have to balance the grandparent’s rights vis-à-vis the parent’s right to make decisions concerning their child.
Ultimately, as in any child custody and visitation case, the court will have to consider all relevant factors and make a decision based on what is in the child’s best interests. This is the mandatory legal standard that family courts must adhere to.
With that said, the one benefit of going to court and asking for a formal recognition of your visitation rights is that once legally recognized by a court of competent jurisdiction, the parent or parents can no longer refuse to allow the grandparent visitation in violation of the court’s orders – unless, of course, there are overriding reasons that will give them grounds to ask for modification of the court’s order.