Do Grandparents Have a Right to Visit Their Grandchildren?

For many families, grandparents are heavily involved in their grandchildren’s lives. If you’re a grandparent, you know just how much your grandchildren mean to you. They’re probably the youngest members of your family, and you’d do pretty much anything to ensure they have a good life.

If divorce can significantly impact children’s relationships with their own parents, then it should go without saying that their relationships with their grandparents will also be affected. Custody orders and visitation agreements between parents can consume much of a child’s life, sometimes leaving little to no significant time to spend with grandparents.

After your son or daughter’s divorce is settled, you might wonder if you’ll ever really get to see your grandchildren again. Fortunately, the courts in California recognize the importance of grandparents’ involvement in children’s lives. Keen on deciding family matters based upon a child’s best interests, a judge may grant a grandparent petitioner visitation rights in California.

When Can Grandparents Petition for Visitation?

Grandparents can’t merely request visitation rights if they don’t see their grandkids as often as they’d like. That said, the circumstances for which visitation can be requested are broad.

Typically, one of the following scenarios must be true for the court to recognize a petition:

  • The parents are separated or divorced
  • The child doesn’t live with either parent
  • A stepparent has adopted the child
  • The whereabouts of one parent for at least a month are unknown
  • One of the parents is incarcerated or involuntarily institutionalized

Barring circumstances such as these, a grandparent may not be successful in seeking visitation. The courts probably won’t hear a petition for grandparent visitation when both parents are married or have moved back in together after separation.

Factors That the Court Will Consider

Granting visitation rights to an adult is a matter that California courts take seriously. Because a grandparent is petitioning for visitation, the burden of proof that visitation would benefit a child falls upon the grandparent. Ultimately, the court will make a decision that it believes aligns with the child’s best interests, but not before evaluating a number of factors first.

These factors will include the following:

  • A child’s health, safety, and wellbeing if visitation is approved
  • Any history of domestic abuse by the individual seeking visitation
  • Any history of substance abuse by the individual seeking visitation
  • The nature and frequency of contact between the child and induvial seeking visitation

If a child doesn’t already have an established relationship with their grandparents, the court is less inclined to grant visitation. If, however, there is already a clear relationship established, the court will be more inclined. Should a child be 14 years old or older, the court will also take the child’s opinion into account, but this testimony won’t necessarily determine the outcome.

Can Grandparents Visit Grandchildren in Foster Care?

If a child is removed from their parents’ physical custody and placed in a foster home, a grandparent’s visitation isn’t automatically terminated, but a judge must decide whether or not it should continue.

What Happens If Someone Else Adopts My Grandchild?

If a child is adopted by someone other than a grandparent or a stepparent, any visitation agreements that grandparents or other relatives have will terminate. Not only is a child’s relationship with their parents severed by adoption, but so too is the child’s relationship with other relatives – even grandparents.

Can Grandparents Adopt a Grandchild?

Grandparents can adopt their grandchildren, with or without the parent’s consent, when a court believes that parental custody is detrimental to children’s best interests. Such can be the case when a parent becomes incarcerated or if there is significant concern that a parent would provide a healthy environment for a child upon release from incarceration.

If there is no other biological parent or another individual with parental rights over a child, a court may terminate the rights of a problematic parent to permit a grandparent’s adoption of their grandchild.

What If a Child’s Other Grandparents Want to Adopt?

If grandparents from both sides of a child’s family wish to adopt, the court will evaluate what would be in the child’s best interests by assessing their relationship with all of their grandparents and who could best provide for the child’s basic needs.