Danny was confused by so many things going on in his life right now. His mom and dad were splitting up, which meant they would not all be living together as a family anymore. Danny and his mom had to move away from his school and friends. But one of the worst things was not being able to see his grandpa and grandma. His parents had some pretty loud arguments about something called visitation. Danny wondered if grandparents get visitation rights, too. Let’s look at what the law says about visitation rights, specifically for grandparents.
Children and Parenting Plans
Judges usually will not finalize a divorce where the couple has children until a parenting plan is complete. If the parents are unable to agree on a plan, the judge will do it for them.
Parenting plans cover:
- What type of custody each parent will have (joint physical custody, for example),
- When the children will spend time with each parent (visitation), and
- How the parents will make decisions about their children.
For example, Danny’s parents both want full custody of him. But he has always spent more time with his mother than his father, and his father travels a lot for his business. The judge might consider giving Danny’s mom sole physical custody, with a generous visitation schedule for his dad. An alternative might be sole legal custody of Danny with joint physical custody. If his parents cannot agree on custody, the judge will do what’s best for Danny.
Parenting plans spell out visitation in detail, including where the child will spend holidays. For example, Danny might spend Christmas with dad one year and mom the next. Summer holidays might be split between the parents, or he might get to spend several months with his dad exclusively. Parenting plans should conform to what is best for the child’s individual needs as much as possible.
But what about grandparents? Are they included in the plan?
Grandparent Visitation Rights
Parents could let their child’s grandparents get visitation rights and add them to the visitation schedule. Sometimes one or both parents are not okay with granting access for some reason. There are ways for grandparents to see their grandkids if they are not in the parenting plan.
In California, grandparents can petition the court for reasonable visitation rights. However, the family court judge will need to see:
That there’s a pre-existing bond between the child and his or her grandparents.
That allowing grandparent visitation can be balanced with the parent’s rights to make decisions for their children.
The law states that courts may use their discretion to award reasonable visitation rights to “any other person having an interest in the welfare of the child.” So, courts could order that grandparents get visitation rights. However, either or both parents could ask the court to deny visitation.
The Final Word on Whether Grandparents Get Visitation Rights or Not
A family court judge will make the final decision on visitation, including allowing grandparent visitation. Doing what is right for the child will always be the default position for family court judges. Judges can and do deny access if visitation is not in the child’s best interests.
Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys. Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.