A minor child’s grandparents can easily become the forgotten party in a divorce, especially if the divorce entails animosity between the divorcing spouses. Grandparents often form close emotional bonds with their grandchildren, and a court’s award of child custody to the spouse that is not the offspring of the grandparents can put deep strains on these relationships. The California legislature has acknowledged this fact by giving divorce courts the power to grant reasonable visitation rights to grandparents of minor children.
As with any court order affecting minor children, an order granting visitation rights to grandparents must serve the best interests of the child. If a grandparent is denied visitation by the custodial parent after the divorce, or if the grandparent fears such an action, the grandparent may petition the court for an order granting visitation. Before granting the petition, the court must find that the grandparent and the grandchild have already established a relationship and that, in balancing the interests of the grandparents against the rights of parents to exercise parental authority, the best interests of the child will be better served by an order allowing visitation.
The custodial parent can create a rebuttable presumption that grandparents’ visitation is not in the best interests of the child by objecting to the petition for visitation. The grandparents can introduce evidence that is intended to rebut the presumption.
A grandparent who wishes to obtain an order permitting visitation with one or more grandchildren may find the assistance of a knowledgeable divorce lawyer to be helpful. An experienced family law attorney can evaluate the circumstances of the case, provide insight into how a judge might view the best interests of the grandchild and suggest useful strategies for ensuring the desired outcome.
Source: California Family Code, “Chapter 5, Visitation Rights,” accessed on Nov. 13, 2017