Grandparent Visitation and Custody Rights in California


In California a grandparent may ask the court for reasonable visitation with a grandchild.  In order to do this there are several requirements which must be met.  First, there must be a pre-existing relationship between the grandparent and the grandchild(ren).  This means that the grandparent must have been involved one way or another in the child’s life on a regular basis usually within 6 months of bringing the complaint for visitation.  Involvement in the child’s life could be such things as the child living in your home for several months or longer, taking the child to school every day for the last school year, or watching the child while the parent(s) work.  The court will  determine if it is in the child’s best interest in having visitation vs. the rights of the parents to make decisions about their child.

Grandparents cannot file for visitation while the grandchild’s parents are married, however, there are exceptions to this rule; If the parents although still married are living separately;  A parent’s whereabouts are unknown;  One of the parents joins in favor of the petition for grandparent visitation;  The child does not live with either of his parents; or the child has been adopted by a stepparent.


If you have grandchildren whose parents are unable to care for them due to illness, or some other condition and you wish to get legal and physical custody of them you may file a petition for guardianship of a minor.  If either of the parents object however, you will have to prove to the court by clear and convincing evidence that granting custody to the parent would be detrimental to the child and that granting custody to the non parent (grandparent) is necessary to serve the best interests of the child.  However, if you are a grandparent seeking custody of your grand kids you must realize that the law in California creates a presumption in favor of parents who object to non-parents seeking custody.  Practically speaking in order to get a custody order a grandparent has to be a “de facto” parent to the grandchild, this means the longer a child has lived with their grandparents the better chance they will have of getting custody and or guardianship of the child(ren).  Finally, it is always helpful in these types of situations to have the approval of at least one of the parents otherwise it can be an uphill battle.

About the author: Martin Mendoza, ESQ. California

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Posted in California, Child Custody, Child Visitation, Grandparent rights
3 comments on “Grandparent Visitation and Custody Rights in California
  1. Lisa Clark says:

    I am a grandmother and I have a son and a daughter who have children, My son has one girl who is about 2 and my daughter has 2 one, girl who is 7yr and a new baby about a couple months old. My problem is I am close to my granddaughter 7 yr but my sons wife has refused to let me see my other granddaughter (son’s) and has now caused trouble with my daugher and now I can’t see any of them. What can I do to get to see my grandchildren? My children refuses to talk to me and now hate me. I was a good parent and thought I raised my children well but I cant see why they are treating me this way. I would like to get visitation rights but the only grandchild I have actually had visits with is my 7 yr old grand daughter and they live 5 hours away so that has only when work and other times allowed. The son’s wife and mother in law has not wanted me to be a part of the grand daughters life since day one and has pitted my son against me and his “other” family since day one now my daughter whom I was close to is involved. My son now said he is not letting me see my grand daughter and I dont know what to do anymore. I need some advice and support in how to resolve this.

    Concerned Grand parent

    By: Lisa C on November 7, 2012
    at 9:52 am


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