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What to know about grandparents' rights in California

In a prior article we posted on our website, we discussed a case involving a grandmother seeking visitation of her grandchildren. In that article, which can be read by clicking here, we note that cases involving grandparents and custody or visitation often become extremely complicated, legally and emotionally.

Typically, grandparents only petition for visitation when there is considerable loss or contention in regards to the grandchildren's parents. Under California law, a grandparent may only seek visitation when the parents are no longer married. However, there are about 6 narrow exceptions to this rule. For example, the most recent exception in California allows grandparents to petition for visitation of a grandchild with married parents if one of the parents is incarcerated. 

The court applies different standards to different grandparent petitions depending on the status of the parents. Knowing which standard will apply to your case is crucial.

The most challenging scenario is when both parents are alive, unmarried, yet both refusing grandparents' visitation. In this scenario the odds are stacked against the grandparents as courts presume the parents know best in deciding who their children can visit. Cases like this do not often succeed and even if initially successful, many of them have been reversed by higher courts due to constitutional issues.

In our article, we looked at one case of a grandmother seeking visitation after her daughter passed away. The daughter had filed for divorce just a month before she passed away, and the grandmother filed a petition for visitation based on the arguments that her daughter had intended to get divorced and her son-in-law was an unfit parent.

What followed in that case, and what happens in so many others, is that the parent and grandparent became locked in a contentious custody battle. This can be very upsetting for every party involved, and legal support can be crucial.

Grandparents should understand that they do have rights to petition the court for visitation and custody, but only under very limited conditions.

Further, asking for visitation can be very complicated, as there are no official state forms available that can be easily filled out and filed. Working through this process with an attorney may be necessary.

It is also important for parents to understand that they also have rights in these situations. They can fight against a petition if they feel that it is unnecessary or unsafe for grandparents to have visitation. Again, legal support in this situation can be crucial.

Any person who is dealing with, or contemplating, a custody battle between parents and grandparents should understand that it can be a very complex situation. Securing legal representation can be crucial in protecting the rights of parents and grandparents, as well as the well-being of the children involved.

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