Grandparent Visitation Rights In California

By Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Grandparent Rights California; California Divorce MediatorsGrandparents and other caretakers frequently form deep and caring attachments with children. However, when families are torn apart by death, estrangement or divorce, these caretakers could suddenly find themselves without any sort of legal right to maintain any contact with children they fervently adore.

Laws related to child visitation

California has a kind of statute related to “grandparent visitation”. It is through which grandparents-and occasionally foster parents or step-parents- may request the court to provide them legal rights for maintaining relationships with their loved children. State laws may substantially vary when it boils down to the important details, like who has the authority to visit and the circumstances of that visit.

A “restrictive” visitation statute means that only grandparents will obtain a court order through which they can visit. This is granted if the parents of the child are getting divorced or if one parent or both of them have died. However, permissive visitation laws allow the courts to consider a request for visitation even if no parent has died. They can visit even if there was no dissolution in the family. The court permits such visitation keeping in mind the child’s emotional needs. If the courts “restrict” such visits, the divorced parents could agree about preventing the visitation of grandparents. Other than grandparents, even care-taking adults can make such kind of petitions. This requires the caretaker to live in the home of the child for a particular time period so that a visitation request can be filed. Do understand that both permissive and restrictive visitation statutes were challenged in a number of California courts by parents. They give the argument that such laws infringe on the rights of parents to raise children as they want. A number of courts have made rulings which are contradictory to one another.

Decision of the US Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court in 2000 tackled this thorny problem related to grandparent visitation rights. It was agreed by the Supreme Court that parents have the fundamental right of making decisions concerning how to raise their children. The court, however, did not agree that permissive visitation statute could be regarded as unconstitutional or that permitting any person who is not a parent to petition for the visitation rights will amount to any assault on family integrity. The Supreme Court however admitted that the statute was applied in an incorrect manner by the lower court, as it presumed that the request of grandparents for extra visitation was in the best interests of the children and not that the parent was functioning in the child’s best interests when he or she refused the grandparents more than short visits. According to the Supreme Court, this approach did not totally protect the fundamental right of a parent to make the decisions for the children.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation