With the explosion of the divorce rate over the past few decades, much has been made of the visitation rights of non-custodial parents. But what about the rights of grandparents? Grandparents do have visitation rights in California under certain circumstances. If you are a grandparent, it is a good idea to know your rights before they come under fire.

Visitation Rights When the Child’s Parents Are Married

First the bad news. The general rule is that grandparents do not have visitation rights if the parents are still married. California family law does allow certain exceptions, however, such as in cases where:

  • The parents are married but in the midst of a long-term separation;

  • The parents have been missing for at least a month;

  • One parent consents to grandparent visitation rights, and allowing visitation is in the best interests of the child;

  • The child does not live with his parents, and allowing visitation is in the child’s best interests; or

  • A stepparent adopts the grandchild.

Visitation Rights When the Child’s Parents Are Not Married

Your chances of securing visitation rights are better if the child’s parents are not married. In this case, there are three requirements that you must meet in order to be granted visitation rights:

  • You must have a pre-existing relationship with the child;

  • There must be an emotional bond between you and the child; and

  • All things considered, the “best interests of the child” must outweigh the rights of the child’s biological parents to make decisions about who their child associates with.  

All of these factors must operate in your favor in order for you to be granted visitation rights.

How to File for Visitation Rights: Procedure

The following procedure is required to obtain grandparents’ visitation rights:

  • Determine whether a family court case is already open involving the child. If so, you will need to file a petition under that particular case. Otherwise, you must open your own case (see below).

  • Complete Form FL-300 with the help of its associated information sheet, Form FL-300-INFO. You might also need Form FL-311 and Form MC-031.

  • Make three (3) copies of all of your forms (a total of four). The original is for the court, one is for you, and the other two go to the child’s parents.

  • File your forms with the court clerk along with the filing fee. The clerk will give you a court date and perhaps a date for a meeting with a mediator.

  • Serve your papers on the child’s parents and anyone else who has physical custody of the child. You must strictly follow certain procedures.

  • Have your server fill out proofs of service on Form FL-330 or Form FL-335 and send them to the child’s parents.

  • Attend your court hearing and/or mediation. The child’s parents have the right to attend.

All of the foregoing steps must be performed flawlessly. A single mistaken detail could result in significant delays.

We’re Ready to Fight for Your Rights

If you seek visitation or custody rights with respect to your grandchildren or if you are involved in a family law dispute, call CKB Vienna today or contact us online to schedule an appointment to discuss your options. We serve clients in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Riverside County.