Under certain circumstances, grandparents may find themselves needing to ask the court for visitation rights to their grandchildren. When this happens, the proper steps must be taken to follow the law and produce the best outcome for everyone involved.
We’re going to look at how a grandparent can ask the court for visitation as well as when that may not be an option. We’ll also explore the process so that the proper steps can be taken.
When Can a Grandparent Ask the Court for Visitation?
California law states that a grandparent can ask the court for reasonable visitation. A court must find that there is a pre-existing relationship between the grandparent and the grandchild and that visitation is in the best interest of the child. The court must also balance the best interest of the child when it comes to visitation with the rights of the parents to make a decision about their child.
Usually, grandparents cannot file for visitation of grandchildren while the parents are married. But, if the parents are living separately, there may be an exception. Other exceptions include:
- If a stepparent adopts the grandchild
- A parent’s whereabouts are unknown for at least one month
- The child does not live with either parent
- One of the parents joins the grandparent’s petition for visitation
It’s important to note that one or both parents can ask the court to end a grandparent’s visitation if circumstances change and none of the above exceptions are still relevant.
What is the Process Grandparents Need to Follow to File for Visitation?
Grandparents can file a petition in court asking for visitation. There are a couple of ways to go about this. If there is already a family law case on file, a grandparent may ask for visitation under one of those cases. If there are no open cases, a new petition will need to be filed.
When there is already a case open, request forms will need to be filed with the court. It’s important to consult a family lawyer or ask the local courthouse what specific forms will need to be filled out. You will need to include information about what type of visitation schedule you are seeking and why. It’s also a good idea to explain your relationship with your grandchildren as well as why you believe it is in your grandchild’s best interest to have visitation with you. Any other details about your relationship that can support your case should also be included.
If you are filling out forms yourself, you’ll want a professional to review them. There’s a chance that you may miss something that could harm your chances of getting visitation. Once the forms are complete and you have made copies, it’s time to file them with the court. After this step, you will likely get a court date or mediation date if you’re going that route.
The next step is to notify the parents of your visitation request. Parents or other legal guardians will get served papers once the petition has been filed in court. When the request is filed under a current case, each parent can be notified by certified mail with a return receipt requested.
Once the parents or legal guardians have received the petition request, there will either be a court hearing or an appointment with a mediator. While the court can certainly help grandparents get visitation with their grandchildren, it’s often best to try to resolve issues out of court. Mediation can be useful to help both parties come to an agreeable solution that keeps the children’s best interest at the forefront. If both parties cannot reach an agreement then the judge will consider the best interest of the child and make a decision regarding visitation.
When it comes to the visitation rights of grandparents it’s important to be aware of all the rules that may apply and to fill out forms correctly. Contacting a family lawyer can be the best way to make sure the process is followed and to give the best chance of receiving visitation.