A question that occasionally arises in family matters is whether grandparents have a legal right to visit their grandchildren over the objection of a parent. In fact, California has enacted a statute (starting at California Family Code Section 3102) that specifically addresses when and how grandparents can obtain visitation rights. Thus, while the short answer to the question regarding grandparent visitation rights is “yes,” as with so many other legal questions, the long answer is considerably more complicated. If you are a grandparent who wants visitation rights for a grandchild or grandchildren, or if you are a parent of a child whose grandparent is seeking to obtain visitation rights, the San Diego grandparent visitation lawyers at Doppelt and Forney can assist you. Our child visitation attorneys advise Southern California clients in a wide variety of complex issues.To Obtain Visitation Rights, Grandparents Must Meet Statutory Requirements
With the rise of divorce, and in an age when it is easy and common for people to pick up and move far away, it is common for grandparents who have formed a close relationship with a grandchild to have that relationship disrupted by divorce, death, or relocation. Indeed, these events already can cause upheaval in a child’s life, and further emotional damage can ensue when these events result in the loss of a close grandparent relationship. Consequently, California has established a means by which grandparents can obtain visitation rights.
A basic principle of family law is that parents possess the authority to make decisions regarding the rearing of their minor children, including determining the people with whom their children may associate. Consequently, grandparents generally do not have a right to sue for visitation of their grandchild if the parents (either natural or adoptive) of the child are still married. However, there are exceptions to this rule, including situations in which:
- The parents remain married but are no longer living together (due to separation, incarceration, institutionalization, or abandonment);
- The child is not residing with either parent;
- One of the parents joins the petition of the grandparent; or
- The child has been adopted by a stepparent.
Grandparents may also sue for visitation when the parents are divorced, or when one or both parents are deceased. A grandparent visitation attorney in San Diego can help them protect their rights.
It should be understood that visitation is specifically a legal right to spend time with a child. Furthermore, being granted a visitation right does not mean that a grandparent will have a general right to participate in the grandchild’s life at will. If it is granted, the scope of the visitation right will be specifically outlined as to when, where, and for how long visits are to take place, and a visitation order may even require grandparents to provide limited support (such as paying for transportation with respect to the visits).
The legal standard for granting grandparent visitation rights has two elements. First, the court must find that the grandparent has an existing positive relationship with the grandchild, such that keeping that bond is in the best interests of the child. Second, the court must find that the granting of a visitation right is not outweighed by the right of a parent to exercise their parental authority. In recognizing the rights of grandparents to sue for visitation, the law balances the value and importance of a strong grandparent-grandchild relationship with the right of parents to raise their children as they see fit.Contact a Grandparent Visitation Lawyer in the San Diego Area
If you are a grandparent who wants to obtain visitation rights for a grandchild, or if you are a parent of a child whose grandparents are seeking visitation rights, contact one of the child custody lawyers at Doppelt and Forney for legal advice. Call 800.769.4748 or send a request online to set up a free consultation. We represent people who need a San Diego grandparent visitation attorney or other forms of legal assistance in cities such as Chula Vista, Coronado, Del Mar, Carlsbad, Encinitas, La Jolla, Oceanside, Escondido, Ramona, Rancho Santa Fe, San Marcos, Valley Center, and Vista.