Grandparents have visitation rights in California. With changing family dynamics, some grandparents are taking an increasingly active role in raising grandchildren. Accordingly, California law recognizes that contact and communication between grandparents and grandchildren is beneficial to the child and 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, and caregivers.
So where once a parent could deny a 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.
To learn more about your rights call our grandparent visitation attorney at (916) 250-1610.
Grandparent Visitation Statutes:
Grandparent visitation rights are found in California Family Code §§ 3102, 3103, & 3104.
Family Code § 3102
California Family Code § 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 rights 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.
(a) If either parent of an unemancipated minor child is deceased, the children, siblings, parents, and grandparents of the deceased parent may be granted reasonable visitation with the child during the child’s minority upon a finding that the visitation would be in the best interest of the minor child.
(b) In granting visitation pursuant to this section to a person other than a grandparent of the child, the court shall consider the amount of personal contact between the person and the child before the application for the visitation order.
(c) This section does not apply if the child has been adopted by a person other than a stepparent or grandparent of the child. Any visitation rights granted pursuant to this section before the adoption of the child automatically terminate if the child is adopted by a person other than a stepparent or grandparent of the child.Cal Family Code § 3102
Family Code § 3103
Under California Family Code § 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, the grandparent or relative can then ask the court to grant them visitation rights.
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, in a proceeding described in Section 3021, the court may grant reasonable visitation to a grandparent of a minor child of a party to the proceeding if the court determines that visitation by the grandparent is in the best interest of the child.Cal Fam. Code § 3103
Family Code § 3104
California Family Code § 3104, on the other hand, allows for the filing of a petition for visitation specifically for grandparents after the divorce proceeding is finalized. This means that the grandparent will not be a party to the divorce, but will instead bring the case in their own name with the “adversary” or “opposing party” as the refusing parent.
(a) On petition to the court by a grandparent of a minor child, 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.Cal Fam. Code § 3104(a)
Right to Visitation is Not Automatic
Grandparents do not have automatic custodial or visitation rights to their grandchildren. Accordingly, filing a petition for visitation under the above statutes will not guarantee an order for visitation in favor of the grandparent.
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 absent a court order. The court will have to balance the grandparent’s rights against 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 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 a modification of the court’s order.