Visitation rights with our grandchildren. Divorce affects many people—most notably, the spouses who are separating and any children they may have. Child custody determinations, child support orders, and decisions regarding the family home are all important issues in a divorce that may define the future of the family. There is another issue, however, that may arise following a divorce that involves other parties—the grandparents of the children.
If one parent has primary custody, he or she may not allow the children to see the grandparents on the other parent’s side. This also may occur if one parent has passed away. Grandparents often maintain close relationships with their grandchildren, though, so in such situations a grandparent may want to petition the California family courts to grant them visitation rights.
Can Grandparents Receive Visitation Rights?
Unlike some other states, California is fairly accommodating in granting visitation rights to grandparents. This does not mean that the wishes of the parent to keep the child away from the grandparents are ignored; in fact, quite the opposite. Courts will presume that a suitable parent will automatically act in the best interests of the child. Grandparents can present evidence to the court to sufficiently show that allowing visitation instead of preventing it would actually be in the best interests of the child.
Grandparents may pursue visitation rights in a number of ways. First, they may join a divorce or child custody case that is already open involving the parents and children. In such situations, grandparent visitation can be decided as part of the case and included in the parenting plan. If there is no open case, the grandparent can bring a new case before the court.
In order to decide a grandparent visitation case, a court must do two main things:
- Determine there was such a meaningful pre-existing relationship between the grandparent and the child that continuing the relationship is in the best interests of the child;
- Weigh the best interest of the child in seeing the grandparents against the parent’s right to make decisions regarding the child.
Mediation and Grandparents’ Rights
California family courts have substantial backlogs with all types of family law cases, many of which are urgent matters such as restraining orders. Grandparents’ rights cases often take a long time to even reach the courts, and then a judge will probably order the family to attempt to resolve their own issues in mediation before a court will intervene.
For this reason, the California court system recommends that grandparents seeking visitation rights try to settle the issue with the parent in mediation in the first place before bringing a claim to court. The courts state that mediation will minimize conflict and encourage a more efficient resolution, saving everyone time and money while hopefully keeping the relationship between the parent and grandparents relatively intact.
Contact an Experienced Santa Rosa Family Law Attorney
If you are a grandparent seeking visitation rights or if you have any other type of family law issue, please do not hesitate to call an experienced Santa Rosa family lawyer at Beck Law P.C. to discuss your case today.