Family Law Watch: Grandparent Visitation Rights

Divorce can have major ramifications on relationships outside the immediate family unit. One such relationship is the grandparent-grandchild relationship. In certain unfortunate circumstances, a parent may decide to cut off any relationship a grandparent may have with a grandchild for reasons known only to the parent. In others, a grandchild may be adopted by a stepparent, which could lead to a subsequent demise in the relationship between the biological grandparents and grandchild. What can grandparents do to preserve their relationship with the grandchildren in the event of a parent’s divorce? Before taking legal action, grandparents should consider the following:

1. Grandparents Rights to Visitation: Courts consider a wide variety of factors before making a determination that a grandparent has a right to visitation. Overall, there is no hard and fast rule that a grandparent has an absolute legal right to visit with a grandchild. Generally speaking, a grandparent cannot file a motion for visitation when the parents of a grandchild are still married. There are exceptions, however, including circumstances where parents are living separately or when the parents’ whereabouts are unknown.

2. Court Considerations for Grandparent Visitation: In California, the Court will look at whether there is an existing relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild. From there, the Court will determine if a visitation order would be in the best interests of the child. To balance that out, the Court will look to a parent’s right to make decisions about their child.

3. Consider Resolution of Issues Out of Court: A grandparent should consider resolving issues with agrandchild’s parent(s) outside of Court. Mediation is a healthy alternative for grandparents and parent(s) who are having difficulty communicating. In most cases, drafting a reasonable visitation schedule for the grandparents to see a grandchild is a good idea.

Ideally, preserving a relationship between grandparent and grandchild is preferable. This can be accomplished when all parties are reasonable in their proposals and expectations and put the child’s needs first.