Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights After a Divorce?

No matter the state of residency, grandparents are not automatically granted legal rights that allow them to visit their grandchildren simply because of the family connection. Additionally, no state allows grandparents to petition for visitation while both parents are still married and / or live together. In California, the only situations when the court allows grandparents to file a motion for visitation are if the parents are divorced and / or do not live together anymore; if one of the parent is incarcerated or deceased; or if a parent's whereabouts are unknown.

If one of these situations applies to you and one or both parents stops you from seeing your grandchildren, you can request court-ordered visitation through Family Court Services. Because previous court cases (including the US Supreme Court) have often ruled in favor of the parent refusing visitation because it may "interfere with their fundamental right to parent the children as they see fit", the court will follow this process:

1. The judge will interview the grandparents to find out if there is a pre-existing relationship between grandparents and grandchildren and how strong this bond is. The court will also ask the grandparents to prove that it is in the "best interest of the children" to continue this grandparent-grandchild relationship.

2. The judge will also ask the parent (s) for their opinion, to understand why they oppose visitation, and will then take into consideration a parent's right to make appropriate parenting decisions about their own children. In the case that both parents agree against grandparent visitation, the judge will rule in the parents' favor.

It is our opinion grandparent visitation rights may not be the best way to resolve this family matter, and in fact could increase the existing friction between grandparents and parents. Also, Family Court Services may request that the family meet with a mediator first to try to reach an agreement. While Family Court Services offer mediation services, court mediators have limited time to listen both sides. Then they will make their own recommendations to the judge if you can't agree.

However, choosing to work with an independent mediator outside of the court system will allow you to spend as much time as needed to reach a consensus. Grandparents can request parents to meet with a family mediator who will act as a third-party and help the family come to an agreement. Mediation encourages open communication among all family members, while keeping focus on the best interests of the children. An experienced mediator will guide grandparents and parents through the various conflicting issues while keeping the expectations of all parties reasonable. Since parents have the legal right to decide who gets visitation with their children, it is in the grandparents' best interest to avoid high conflict confrontations in court, and opt for a peaceful resolution via mediation instead.

Source by Rich Gordon