Kevin Qualls Family Law
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Review of grandparents' visitation rights in California

A child's grandparents can easily get overlooked during a custody dispute or even when things in a family are running smoothly, that is, without any major wrangling over custody and visitation. On the other hand, in Orange County, California, as well as most other parts of the country, grandparents play a vital role in a child's growth and development. Losing that relationship can have a long-term impact on a child.

Unlike with parents, grandparents normally have no absolute constitutional rights to raise and relate to their grandchildren. Still, the state of California, under its regular statutes, gives grandparents some ability to pursue visitation.

Grandparent visitation is not always available, however. For instance, if a child's parents are legally married and the parents decide not to allow the grandparents access to the children, that decision is, legally speaking, final. There are some notable exceptions to this rule, the most common one probably being that the parents, albeit not divorced, are living in separate households.

Assuming a grandparent passes this first hurdle, they still must demonstrate to a family law court that there is an actual, meaningful relationship between the grandparent and the grandchild. In other words, the grandparent has to have interacted enough with the grandchild in order to engender a bond between the two of them such that a court would find visitation in the best interests of the child.

Unlike other child custody and visitation questions, however, a California judge cannot just end the inquiry and award visitation upon finding it in the child's best interests. He or she must also conduct a balancing test, asking whether the child best interests are really so compelling that they justify overriding a parent's decision not to allow the grandparents to visit.

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Kevin Qualls Family Law
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