Far too often in our time, grandparents are kept out of their grandchildren’s lives, especially after events like legal separation and divorce. In many of these situations, grandparents in southern California will need the advice and services of an Orange County family law attorney.
In a common scenario, a divorced parent with custody may prevent an ex-spouse’s parents from visiting their grandchild or grandchildren after a divorce or separation. In some cases, grandparents may even be concerned for the physical safety of their grandchildren.
If you have any grandchildren in southern California, read on. You are about to learn what the law says regarding grandparents’ rights in our state and what options the law offers to grandparents.
Exactly what are a grandparent’s legal rights? If a parent tries to separate grandparents from their grandchildren, can the grandparents take legal action to establish visitation rights? If you’ll keep reading, you will learn the answers to these questions and more about family law in California.
What Are a Grandparent’s Legal Rights?
Everyone knows that divorce and separation are extremely difficult for most children. It is precisely these kinds of situations that call for the encouragement and emotional support that grandparents can lovingly provide to a child.
Grandparents’ rights are recognized by California courts, and grandparents have the right to seek reasonable visitations after a divorce or separation. In such cases, the courts may take a number of factors into consideration when making a determination about grandparental visitation rights.
Whenever a child is involved in a legal matter in this state, the highest priority for a court is the child’s best interests. However, due to a Supreme Court ruling, grandparents have no absolute right to visits with grandchildren, even if those visits may be in a child’s best interests.
What Has the Supreme Court Determined?
In 2000, the United States Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional a State of Washington law that specifically gave grandparents in that state visitation rights – providing that the visits were in the child’s best interests – even if the custodial parent did not want those visits to take place.
Nevertheless, even when a custodial parent is opposed to grandparental visitations, and even with the Supreme Court ruling in 2000, there are still particular situations where grandparents may be allowed by California courts to have limited rights to visitations with grandchildren.
In some cases, grandparents may be permitted visitation rights for one weekend each month and for a week or longer in the summertime. In other circumstances, a court may find no justification for allowing visitations, and grandparents may be completely removed from a grandchild’s life.
What is a Family Lawyer’s Role?
When California grandparents seek visitation rights, a court must determine if the facts and details of the case make it unique. Orange County grandparents who are blocked from visiting their grandchildren should discuss the situation with a southern California family lawyer.
A family lawyer will review the matter and offer sound, honest advice regarding a grandparent’s legal options and rights. If you have been prevented from visiting a grandchild, a court will try to learn if a relationship has been established previously between the grandparent and the child.
A California family court will then try to balance the grandchild’s best interests and the grandparent’s visitation rights with a custodial parent’s legal authority to decide who may spend time visiting the child.
What Will Grandparents Need if They Go to Court?
Grandparents in California who seek to establish their right to visit a grandchild must be ready to tell a judge why the visits will be in the child’s interests and must be able to offer testimony or evidence that helps the court know more about the grandparent-grandchild relationship.
Frankly, if the parents have not divorced, and if they are both against permitting grandparental visits, a grandparent may not have any legal options. On the other hand, even in this situation, there may be some specific exceptions.
For example, when the parents have separated, when one parent has disappeared or abandoned the family for at least thirty days, or when a grandchild is not residing with either of the parents, a California family court may allow grandparental visitations on a limited or restricted basis.
Is Going to Court a Grandparent’s Only Legal Option?
Whether a child’s parents are married, unmarried, or divorced, taking the matter to court may not be a grandparent’s only option. Often, these cases are more effectively settled through mediation. Even if a grandparent goes to court seeking visitation rights, the court may order mediation.
In fact, it is often better to settle these matters outside of a courtroom through mediation. When you go directly to a California court, a judge will probably order mediation anyway. Mediation can reduce animosity between parents and grandparents and can also reduce the legal costs.
What Should You Know About Mediation?
Mediation lets all parties in a family dispute openly discuss their concerns and air their grievances. Mediated settlements are often more effective and acceptable to all parties involved than court-ordered settlements that often leave one party with bruised feelings and resentments.
Many family attorneys in California also act as mediators, but when mediation is ordered by the court, your lawyer may not be permitted to represent you in the process, so if you are a grandparent, discuss mediation with your family law attorney before you take any other action.
When parents cannot appropriately or adequately care for their child, a grandparent may request legal guardianship. If you are a grandparent in California who is seeking visitation rights or legal guardianship, you must be represented by a dedicated and skilled family law attorney.
First, Consult the Right Attorney
The law in California spells out no specific legal way for a grandparent to seek visitation rights. In every case, grandparents should consult with an Orange County family law attorney and carefully think through that attorney’s recommendations.
If you are a grandparent and you need to take legal action to save your relationship with your grandchild, take the time to discuss the matter fully and candidly with a southern California family law attorney, because nothing is more important than our children and grandchildren.
A good family law attorney can explain your rights and spell out your options as a grandparent, and if it’s necessary, your attorney can take the appropriate legal action on your behalf.