Divorce affects many people, not just the spouses who are getting divorced and their children but their extended families as well. Many divorcing couples will fight over custody arrangements and child support regarding their children, but these fights rarely address figures that are often ever present in children’s lives: their grandparents.
If one spouse wins primary custody it is common that contact with the other side’s grandparents is limited or restricted entirely. In situations where grandparents may become cut off from their grandchildren, California provides a legal remedy.
Many states do not recognize a grandparent’s right to visit with their grandchild. California, however, does recognize these rights. California law dictates that custody agreements and parenting plans must be drawn up to act in the best interests of the child. Grandparents may present evidence to a family court that allowing visitation by the grandparents would be in the best interests of the child.
There are two instances when a grandparent may petition for visitation rights. The first is when there is an active divorce proceeding or child custody case. In these situations, grandparent visitation can be one of many details drawn up and included in a parenting plan. Once a judge approves a parenting plan, the parents are obligated to follow its terms.
If there is no active case that grandparents can intervene in, they can petition the court themselves to alter an existing parenting plan to include visitation rights for the grandparents or to force a parent to allow access to the grandchild.
In order to determine that it is in the best interests of the child to have visitation by his or her grandparents, California courts must make two important decisions.
First, the court must determine that there is a meaningful preexisting relationship between the grandparent and the child and that continuing the relationship is in the best interests of the child. If there is a strong preexisting relationship between child and grandparent, it is likely that the grandparent will have access to his or her grandchild.
Second, the court must weigh the best interests of the child in seeing the grandparents against the parent’s right to make decisions regarding the child. In general, parents have the right to raise their child as they see fit and infringing on that right is not a matter that is taken lightly.
Protecting your grandparental rights is a serious matter. Family is the most important thing in the world and there is no room for error when presenting your case. The law offices of Charles D. Stark in Santa Rosa, CA have more than 40 years of experience in these types of situations and can put that experience to work for you. Contact us at (707) 527-9900 or visit us online.