Custody disputes can be complicated no matter the circumstances. However, matters can feel especially delicate when grandparents seek custody of or wish to maintain some sort of relationship with their grandchildren over the objections of the child’s parents. Nevertheless, doing so is sometimes necessary to protect the interests of your grandchild. While making the decision to seek custody or visitation of your grandchild can be difficult, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Use our guide to learn more about whether and how to seek custody of your grandchild in California and see what the team at Pakpour Banks LLP can do to help you move forward. Contact us today to speak with an experienced family law attorney about your case!
Grandparent Custody in California: Understanding Your Rights
Parents have a constitutional right to raise their children as they see fit, including whether and to what extent they wish to extend visitation and other rights to the child’s grandparents. See Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000). Nevertheless, there are certain scenarios in which a grandparent may be entitled to seek custody or visitation rights when it is in the child’s best interests. Here are a few things to know when it comes to seeking custody of your grandchildren in California.
When You May Be Entitled to Seek Custody of Your Grandchild in California
Generally speaking, it is the public policy of the state to ensure that a child should have continued contact with both parents where possible. Sometimes, however, it may be better for the child to be cared for by someone other than one or both of their parents.
According to California Family Code section 3040, if neither parent is able or fit to care for and maintain custody of the child, the court may grant custody to another person, such as a grandparent, deemed suitable and able to provide adequate care and guidance for the child. However, before granting custody to a grandparent over the objection of a parent, the court must first make a finding that:
- Granting custody to a parent would be detrimental to the child; and
- Granting custody to the grandparent is necessary to serve the best interests of the child.
Thus, obtaining custody of your grandchildren is not automatic or easy by any means.
How to Prove That a Grandparent Should Have Grandchild Custody Rights
The primary inquiry in granting custody is determining what is in the best interest of a child. There are a number of factors that a court will consider in determining whether granting custody to a grandparent is in the child’s best interests. While each case is different, below are some examples of situations where a court might grant custody to a grandparent, rather than a parent, in the best interest of the child:
- One or both parents are incarcerated and are unable to adequately care for the child;
- The parents are deceased;
- There is evidence that one or both parents are suffering from drug abuse or addiction;
- There is evidence of domestic violence between the child’s parents; and
- One or both parents are suffering from mental health concerns.
Importantly, this is not an exhaustive list, and there are a variety of ways to prove that granting custody to a grandparent is ultimately in the child’s best interests. If you have questions about whether you may be able to seek custody of your grandchildren, speak with an experienced family law attorney to discuss the facts of your case in more detail.
Grandparent Visitation Rights
Notably, even if you are unsuccessful in seeking custody of your grandchild, it’s important to remember that you may still have rights you can pursue. For example, California Family Code section 3104 states that a court may grant reasonable visitation rights to a grandparent if it finds that:
- Granting visitation would be in the child’s best interest because there is a preexisting relationship between the grandparent and their grandchild that has “engendered a bond” between them; and
- Doing so would balance the interest of the child having visitation with the grandparent against the right of the parents to exercise their parental authority.
While being denied custody may feel discouraging, take heart in knowing that other options still exist to allow you to maintain your relationship with your grandchildren.
Pakpour Banks LLP: Your Trusted California Custody and Family Law Attorneys
Grandparents play a crucial role in the lives of many children. Thus, protecting your rights as a grandparent is not something that should be taken lightly. At Pakpour Banks, we pride ourselves on providing excellent representation to our clients while doing so as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. If you have questions about your custody or visitation rights as a grandparent, contact our team to discuss your case and see how we can help you meet your legal needs today.
Do Grandparents Have Default Custody or Visitation Rights with Respect to Their Grandchildren?
Technically, no. By default, grandparents are not entitled to any custody or visitation rights over their grandchildren. That said, grandparents do have rights under California law to seek custody or court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren where certain factors exist. Doing so is not always easy, but it is certainly possible.
Which One Should I Pursue Custody: Custody of My Grandchildren or Visitation?
Some grandparents may ultimately believe that the child’s parents are fit to care for and make decisions on behalf of the child but still wish to maintain a relationship with their grandchild. In other cases, allowing the child to continue residing with their parent may be detrimental to the child’s health, safety, or overall well-being. In these cases, a grandparent may seek custody, rather than visitation, to protect the child’s best interests. In short, the answer to this question will vary widely depending on the particular facts and circumstances surrounding your case. If you’re not sure whether custody or visitation makes more sense for you, speak with an attorney to discuss your options in more detail.
Do You Need to Hire an Attorney to Obtain Grandchild Custody or Visitation in California?
No, you do not have to hire an attorney to represent you in any legal action to obtain custody of or visitation with your grandchildren. That said, having an experienced family law and custody attorney can be beneficial to your case. From filing important legal documents to appearing in court on your behalf and everything in between, a lawyer can help you save significant time, expense, and stress in the long run. Give us a call today to discuss your options.