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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law

Can grandparents file for visitation rights in California?

For many grandparents, spending time with their grandchildren is one of the most important activities in their lives. When a couple separates, many grandparents fear that they will not get as much time with the child as they used to. As a result, many grandmothers and grandfathers attempt to fight for their grandparents' rights by seeking visitation rights.

In California, grandparents have every right to petition the court for reasonable visitation with their grandchild if the parents are divorced or are living separately. They may also file for visitation in various other circumstances (i.e. if one or both parents have been missing for at least a month). If there is an open family court case involving the grandchild, the grandparent can file their petition under that case. If not, they can start a new case.

In their petition, grandparents will have to describe the visitation schedule they are seeking and why it would be beneficial for the child. They must establish to the courts satisfaction that the grandparent and grandchild had a pre-existing relationship and that visitation would be in the child's best interest. Courts must also weigh the benefits of grandparent visitation with the importance of allowing parents to raise their child as they see fit.

Once the grandparents file the paperwork with the court, the papers will need to be served on the parents. At that time, a court hearing will be scheduled in front of a judge or the parties will be required to go to mediation to work out a visitation schedule outside of court. The judge will then make a final decision regarding a grandparents' visitation rights and will sign a court order. Once the order is signed, all parties are legally required to abide by the terms of the order. Grandparents are often an important part of a child's life and will be granted visitation rights to maintain their bond with the child.

Source: California Courts, "Visitation Rights of Grandparents," accessed on Sept. 5, 2017

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