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Grandparents Visitation Rights

Santa Rosa – Petaluma – Ukiah – Lakeport

What Are Grandparents Visitation Rights in California?

Under California Family Code section 3100-3105, if grandparents visitation rights are denied by the parents, grandparents may still be able to have limited rights to visitation of their grandchildren. Generally, if the parents are married, grandparents cannot file for visitation rights, but there are some exceptions. When the parents are married, grandparents can file for visitation if: the parents are living separately; one of the parents has been absent for at least one month and the other parent does not know their whereabouts; one of the parents joins in the visitation motion with the grandparents; the grandchild is not living with either parent or; a step-parent has adopted the grandchild. If any of the above exceptions apply, the grandparents may file a motion to request reasonable visitation.

If at any time there is a change in circumstances and any of the above exceptions no longer apply, the parents can terminate the grandparent’s visitation rights.

Grandparents Visitation Rights in Sonoma County

For Sonoma County as well as the rest of California, California Family Code section 3103-3104 provides authority for the court to grant reasonable visitation to the grandparents if the court determines it is in the best interest of the minor child to do so. There is a rebuttable presumption that such visitation is not in the child’s best interest, so the burden of proof is on the grandparents to overcome the presumption. Primarily, in making its decision, the court considers two factors in granting reasonable grandparents visitation which include: 1) determining whether a preexisting relationship between the grandparents and grandchild has “engendered a bond” between them and; 2) a balancing test between the interests of the child having visitation with the grandparents against the parent’s right to exercise their parental authority.

If the grandparents are granted visitation, the court also has the authority to order a parent or grandparent to pay to the other an amount of child support for the grandchild based the percentage of visitation using statewide uniform guideline calculations.

How do we initiate a grandparents visitation rights action with the court?

To initiate an action for grandparent rights with the court, the grandparents must first file a Summons and Petition for Grandparent Visitation and serve it on both parents. Presently, there is no standard form through the courts to use for the Petition, however some counties have developed local forms for this purpose. Once the action is on file with the court, the grandparents can file a Request for Order for Visitation. Alternatively, if there is a current family law case filed between the minor child’s parents, the grandparents may join into that case to ask for visitation without starting a case from scratch.

Once the motion has been filed, the grandparents and parents likely will be required by the court to attend mediation prior to the court hearing to work things out. If an agreement is not reached in mediation, the matter will proceed to court.

If visitation rights are ordered for the grandparents, there may be issues of enforcement. The parents may refuse to communicate with the grandparents, claim the child is sick, doesn’t want to visit with the grandparents or that there is scheduling conflicts. If the parents do attempt to avoid the visitation, further court intervention may be required to enforce the order.

If you are interested in learning further about grandparents visitation rights,  custody rights of grandparents or some other grandparent’s rights related matter, please contact the family law attorneys of Beck Law P.C. to arrange for a confidential consultation.

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