Grandparents can be a stabilizing force for children whose parents divorce or legally separate. Indeed, the California Legislature has recognized this, providing affirmatively for grandparent visitation.
Sections 3100-3105 of the California Family Code describe the circumstances under which grandparents may obtain visitation with their grandchildren.
When One Parent Is Deceased
It is easiest for a grandparent to obtain visitation when one of the parents is deceased. In such an unfortunate case, a court need only determine that grandparent visitation is in the best interest of the child.
However, a grandparent cannot use this provision of the law if the child has been adopted by someone other than a stepparent or another grandparent. Likewise, if a grandparent previously obtained visitation under this section of the law, the visitation automatically terminates if the child is adopted by someone other than a stepparent or another grandparent.
Other Cases of Grandparent Visitation
If both parents are alive but divorced, a grandparent who wants visitation with his or her grandchild must proceed under a different law. Under that law, before reasonable grandparent visitation may be granted, a court must do two things: (1) find that the two have had a relationship in the past that “engendered a bond” between them, rendering visitation in the child’s best interest; and (2) balance the child’s interest in grandparent visitation with the parents’ right to “exercise their parental authority.” Cal. Fam. Code § 3104.
However, a court may not order grandparent visitation when the parents are still married unless one of the following six circumstances exist:
- The parents are either permanently or indefinitely separated;
- The whereabouts of one of the parents have been unknown to the other parent for at least one month;
- One of the parents joins the petition for grandparent visitation;
- The child does not live with either parent;
- A stepparent has adopted the child; or
- One of the parents is either in jail or has been institutionalized.
In these limited circumstances, grandparent visitation may be granted; however, if the supporting circumstance ends, either parent may successfully move to have grandparent visitation terminated.
The attorneys at The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive legal experience in family law matters. We have handled all types of visitation requests, including those involving grandparents. Contact us today at (415) 259-6636 to learn how we can help you in this area.