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A young girl using a cell phone to take a selfie with her grandmother.

The Visitation Rights of Grandparents

Spending Time with Grandma and Grandpa

Grandparents can have a profound impact on a child’s life. However, divorce can hinder that relationship between grandparent and grandchild to the point where seeking visitation rights may be necessary. What are the rights given to grandparents as it relates to visitation?

When Rights Can Be Granted

A child’s grandparents can petition for reasonable visitation if they choose; however, they may not file for visitation if the child’s parents are still married. They may only file this petition while the child’s parents are married if one or more of the following statements are true:

  • The parents of the child are living separate and apart on an indefinite basis.

  • One of the child’s parents has been absent without knowledge of their whereabouts for one month or more.

  • One of the child’s parents joins the petition.

  • The child is not residing with either of the parents.

  • The child has been adopted by a stepparent.

  • One of the child’s parents is either in prison or institutionalized.

If one or more of these statements is true, then the court may hear the petition and grant visitation. However, if the statements above cease to be true (such as the parents live together once again or the child begins residing with one of the parents), then the court will typically terminate visitation upon petition of either parent.

Criteria To Be Met

Grandparent visitation rights are granted based on the following criteria:

  • There must be a preexisting relationship (established prior to filing the petition) between the grandparents and the grandchild that has “engendered a bond.” This phrase means that granting visitation rights would be in the best interests of the child because of the close nature of the bond between the parties.

  • The child’s interest in visitation with the grandparents balances with the right of the parents to make decisions on behalf of the child.

Under California law, there is a presumed rebuttal that grandparents should not be granted visitation if the parents of the child agree that the grandparents should not receive visitation; or, if the parents are not unanimous in their feelings on the issue, the custodial parent believes grandparent visitation unnecessary.


Because of the sensitive nature of custody issues and the accompanying complexities they bring, it’s important that those seeking visitation rights as grandparents consult with an attorney to guide them throughout each step of the process.
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