A divorce can affect grandparents. If you are a grandparent and want information about visitation with your grandchildren, it`s important learn about your options and understand your rights as a grandparent.
When Can Grandparents Ask for Visitation?
Parents can always choose to allow grandparents visitat with their children, without a court order. For various reasons, however, some parents stop allowing their children time with their grandparents. In these cases, the grandparents may be able to petition the court for visitation.
Under California law, a grandparent can ask the court for reasonable visitation with a grandchild. To give a grandparent reasonable visitation with a grandchild, the court has to:
- Find that there was a pre-existing relationship between grandparent and grandchild that has “engendered a bond.” This means that there is such a bond between grandparent and grandchild that visitation is in best interest of the grandchild.
- Balance the best interest of the child in having visitation with a grandparent with the rights of the parents to make decisions about their child.
Another issue that comes up is if grandparents are permitted visitation rights to their grandchildren. In every state, there are stipulations that allow grandparents to maintain a relationship with their grandchildren through grandparent visitation rights. Each state’s laws and requirements will vary greatly, so it will largely depend on what state the child custody process is being adjudicated in.
Lastly, if a parent has received full custody of their children and there is a concern about abuse to the spouse who has full custody of the children, or abuse to the children themselves, the court may still grant the other parent visitation rights. However, these rights will typically include supervised visitation. This can be a person who is either known or unknown to the parents and no visitation will be able to take place without a third-party supervisor being able to monitor the safety of the parent, as well as the children.
How Courts Decide Whether to Grant Grandparents Visitation
Grandparents that file for visitation rights with their grandchildren must serve a copy of the petition on each of the child’s parents, stepparents, and any other person who has physical custody of the child. Courts automatically send all grandparent visitation cases to mediation. If the parents and grandparents can’t settle their matter in mediation, the mediator notifies the court, which then sets the case down for a hearing before a judge.
A judge deciding a grandparent’s visitation case begins with the presumption that grandparent visitation shouldn’t be allowed if both parents (or one parent with sole custody) decide that the grandparent shouldn’t have visitation. It’s the grandparent’s burden to prove to the court that visitation is in the child’s best interests.
When determining whether visitation is in a child’s best interests, courts consider a host of factors, including each of the following:
- the child’s health, safety, and wellbeing
- and history of domestic abuse by anyone seeking custody or visitation
- each person’s use of drugs or alcohol, and
- the nature and frequency of contact between the child and person seeking custody.
When a child’s parent dies, the court can grant visitation to the deceased parent’s children, siblings, parents, or grandparents if it’s in the child’s best interests. Judges consider the amount of contact between the child and the other family member when deciding whether to grant visitation for all family members except grandparents; grandparents need only show that it’s in a child’s best interests for them to win visitation.
Visitation Rights After Adoption
In California, if a child is adopted by someone other than a stepparent or grandparent, all visitation rights with the previous family automatically terminate. The child’s adoption severs not only the relationship between a child and parent, but all of the parent’s relatives as well. If a stepparent or another grandparent adopts the child, however, grandparent visitation may continue.
Also, if a court has removed a child from the parent’s physical custody and placed the child in another environment, such as a children’s home, the judge must also determine whether continued grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interests. In these cases, courts don’t automatically assume that grandparent visitation is against the child’s best interests, regardless of the parents’ views or desires.
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