California has some of the lowest divorce rates in the country, at just 6.5%. However, that still means thousands of divorces in California each year. Those divorces can mean considerable trauma and emotion for everyone involved: not just the divorcing spouses, but their children and, in many cases, those children’s grandparents. Many grandparents may wonder, after a divorce, whether they may have the right to visitation with their grandchildren.
According to California law, in most cases, a child’s parents will have the right to determine whether a grandparent has the right to see a child. After a parent’s divorce, either parent has the right to determine whether the grandparents can see the child or to take the child to visit with the grandparents.
Sometimes, one parent may realize that the grandparents pose a safety hazard to the child. In that case, if the other parent does not limit access, that parent may have the court issue an order that will prevent the other parent from taking the child to spend time with the grandparents. Those orders may be issued when a grandparent poses either a mental or physical danger to the child.
Sometimes, grandparents may have the right to directly pursue visitation rights during or after a divorce. Most of the time, if the child’s parents are married, the parents will have the right to determine whether the child will see the grandparents. However, the grandparents may have the right to pursue visitation through the court if there is a strong pre existing relationship between grandparent and grandchild. In general, the grandparents will need to establish that visitation will work in the child’s best interests. Generally, the court will rule in favor of the grandparents in cases where the child’s need to see the grandparent outweighs the parents’ rights to make those decisions on the parent’s behalf.
Grandparents may also have the right to file for visitation rights when the parents are still married, but circumstances exist that may prevent the grandparents from accessing the child. For example:
A grandparent’s pursuit of visitation rights can turn complicated very quickly. However, in many cases, the courts will award visitation to grandparents when they feel that it acts in the best interests of the child to continue to have contact with the grandparent or grandparents.
Divorce can have a substantial impact on everyone. Often, grandparents experience substantial trauma when they hear about their child’s divorce. They have, throughout the duration of the marriage, treated the child’s spouse as a member of the family. With the divorce, however, that relationship comes to an end. Grandparents may also fear that the divorce will have a substantial impact on their relationship with their grandchildren.
Shared custody between parents can still mean substantially decreased visits with grandparents. Often, parents will have new responsibilities, which may mean that a child spends more time in childcare. In other cases, the child may simply be with the other parent at times when they would normally visit. Unfortunately, that can mean considerably less time for grandparents to connect with their grandchildren.
Sometimes, during a divorce, one parent will receive only visitation rights. In other cases, including cases of abuse, that parent may end up with no rights at all. In that case, the parents of the child who did not receive custody of their grandchildren may not have access to their grandchildren at all. Where a strong relationship does not exist between the grandparents and the other spouse, it can be even more difficult for them to get access.
Divorce often permanently changes the way families handle holidays. Often, divorcing parents will do their best to create an arrangement that still maintains as many traditions as possible for the children’s benefit, but they may not be able to manage the same connection they did before the divorce.
Those changes in access and connection can have a significant impact on grandparents’ and grandchildren’s relationships. Often, that adds an additional element of trauma and loss during a period that is already difficult for every member of the family.
Most of the time, the California court system will strongly uphold the rights of a child’s parents over the rights of nonparents. However, the courts will take a child’s needs and best interests into consideration. For grandparents who intend to pursue visitation rights, several clear steps can make the process easier.
When possible, grandparents may find it more effective to try to resolve any conflict with the child’s parents through mediation. Mediation may make it much easier to lay out a grandparent’s concerns and help the family reach a resolution that fits everyone’s needs and best interests. Furthermore, the mediation process can help clear the air.
A grandparent who intends to pursue visitation with a minor child may find that working with a lawyer offers their best odds of achieving their goals. An attorney can help:
An attorney can, in many cases, help smooth over the process and manage mediation with the parents.
While grandparents are not automatically granted visitation rights during a divorce, in many cases, grandparents may have the right to pursue that vital connection and relationship with their grandchildren. Working with a lawyer can help streamline the process of pursuing visitation.
If you need help with a divorce case, call 619-299-9780 to schedule a free telephone consultation or contact a San Diego family law specialist here.
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