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Grandparents' Rights to Custody & Visitation in California

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Many people agree that grandparents can be wonderful influences in the lives of their grandchildren. Grandparents have so much to offer, such as unconditional love, companionship, life advice, mentoring, babysitting, and so much more. In most cases, the grandparent-grandchild relationship is positive and its impact lasts a lifetime for the fortunate grandchild.

Sometimes though, life goes awry and there is a wedge in the grandparent’s relationship with their grandchild. Often, this wedge or division is the effect of a divorce, an adoption, or the death of a parent. Other times, the grandchild is taken away from his or her parents by CPS and placed in the foster care system.

The Role of Grandparents

“In some families, the role of grandparenting is almost seamless, passed down from the previous generation. Everyone wins in these families.

“Parents have someone they can talk with about parenting issues and can trust to watch their children from time to time. Grandparents are able to spend quality time with the grandchildren they love and complete the circle of love. Grandchildren have champions who love them unconditionally and are involved in their lives.

“In some of these families, the grandparents watch their grandchildren during the day while parents work, have their grandchildren over to spend the night on weekends, or watch their grandchildren during school breaks,” according to “The special role of grandparents” published on

Are You a Grandparent?

Are you a grandparent who is interested in seeking custody or visitation of your grandchild? If so, you’re probably very curious about your rights, that is, if you have any legal rights toward your grandchild. In this article, we go over grandparents’ rights to custody and visitation in the State of California. If you have further questions after reading this piece, we invite you to contact our firm directly for a free consultation.

Each state handles grandparents’ rights differently. As a grandparent in California, you’re in luck. Under California law, you do have the legal right to ask the family court for reasonable visitation with your grandson or granddaughter. For the court to give you reasonable visitation of your grandchild, the court will have to:

  • Determine that you have a pre-existing relationship with your grandchild and that you currently have an “endangered bond.” This means you have a bond and its being threatened, and it would be in the best interests of the child to grant you visitation rights, AND
  • Balance the child’s best interests in regard to visitation with you and the parents’ rights to make decisions about their own child.

Not All Grandparents Will Succeed

Are there any instances where a grandparent will not succeed in court? Yes, unfortunately, not all grandparents will succeed in court. Generally, grandparents are not able to ask the court for visitation rights when the child’s parents are married, however, there are some exceptions to the rule:

  • The parents do not live together;
  • One of the parents is missing and the family doesn’t know where he or she is (and they have been missing for at least one month);
  • The grandchild does not live with either Mom or Dad; or
  • A stepparent has adopted the grandchild.

To learn more about a grandparent’s rights in California, see Sections 3100-3105 of the California Family Code.

Can You Avoid Court?

It is possible for some families to resolve issues regarding a grandparent’s visitation rights without having to go to court. One option is mediation between you and the child’s parents if they can be easily located. Mediation can be a healthy way to openly communicate your needs and concerns and work toward reaching an agreement that everyone can be satisfied with, one that is in the child’s best interests of course.

If mediation is simply not an option, that’s okay too. We understand that families can be complicated and some custody and visitation issues regarding grandparents cannot be resolved unless the courts are involved. If you’re in this situation, our office can certainly offer the legal representation you’re looking for.

Seeking Guardianship of a Grandchild

Are you a grandparent who has been raising a grandchild because the parents are incarcerated, homeless, have a substance abuse problem, in rehab, or are absent for another reason? If so, you may want to seek guardianship of your grandchild.

In California, when a non-parent asks the court for custody of a child (more than visitation rights because they want the child to live with them), it’s called “guardianship.” If it’s guardianship you’re seeking, it will be a separate court process than if you were seeking visitation rights of your grandchild. If you ask the court for guardianship of your grandchild, what you’ll be asking for is “probate guardianship.” Here’s a little info:

“A probate guardianship of the person is set up because a child is living with an adult who is not the child’s parent, and the adult needs a court order to make decisions on behalf of the child. Generally, probate guardianships are for children under 18,” according to the California Courts.

If you are awarded guardianship, the child’s parents will still have their parental rights, for example, they can ask the court for reasonable contact with their son or daughter. If the parents become able to care for their child, the court can end the guardianship. As a guardian, you will be supervised by the court.

Legal Assistance with a Grandparents’ Rights Case

If you need professional legal assistance with child custody or visitation rights matter regarding your grandchild, we encourage you to contact our firm to schedule a free case evaluation. We would be glad to help you in any way that we can.

Next: Can Substance Abuse Impact Child Custody?

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