Grandparent Visitation Lawyers in Sacramento
Standing up for Grandparents’ Rights
The love and assistance provided by grandparents is often essential to the success of a young family as they struggle to meet the demands of everyday responsibilities. In modern life, those demands are ever-increasing. Grandparents often fill a wide range of roles, including babysitting, driving the kids to and from school or other activities, providing badly needed financial assistance, offering the wisdom of experience, and sometimes, just being there to lean on when needed. At The Law Office of David A. Martin & Associates, we handle all legal issues related to grandparents—both visitation and custody. We can help you protect your rights and explore your options.
What Legal Rights Do Grandparents Have?
The line between the role of grandparent and parent can become blurred and cause family upset. Sometimes this is because a grandparent believes they should be more involved in decision-making about the child, and sometimes because the parent gives that authority to the grandparent for convenience or necessity. Either way, resentment and mistrust can be the byproduct of misaligned expectations.
In some instances, a grandparent is called to duty because a parent has died and no other suitable caregiver is available. Where only one parent has passed away and the other is willing and able to serve as primary caregiver, that will have a significant impact on the grandparent’s continuing role as caregiver to the child. Often, in a family already disrupted by divorce or separation, the grandparent on the side of the deceased finds themselves suddenly shut out of the child’s life by the surviving parent.
In other instances, a parent has been neglectful or failed to protect the child from the other parent’s neglect and the State is looking for someone other than the parents to care for the child.
In yet other circumstances, there is a simple breakdown in the relationship between a parent and the grandparent such that the parent no longer feels it is appropriate to share the child with the grandparent. This can result due to legitimate concerns or from less legitimate, petty, or trivial circumstances.
Petitioning for Grandparents’ Rights in California
Grandparents can often successfully petition for visitation if:
- The child’s parents have died
- The family has a pending custody or family law case
- The parents are not married to each other
- The parents live apart
Compare with Guardianship
In some of the instances described on this page, the grandparent should consider whether to pursue a guardianship of the child rather than visitation. In instances where both parents are deceased, or where neither parent is capable or willing to meet the obligations of parenthood, a guardianship of the child will allow the grandparent to exercise full legal control of the child, to cover the child under the grandparent's health insurance policy and enroll the child in school and other activities where an order of custody is required.
In hearing a request for grandparent visitation or custody, the Court is constrained by important statutory and constitutional principles. The US Supreme Court has recognized the fundamental right of a parent to direct the care and upbringing of their child, and that right may not be impeded except under certain circumstances. California statutes distinguish between cases where the parties are married or not, living together or not, whether both parents are living, and whether both parents object to grandparent visitation. There is a natural inclination among most judges—many of whom are grandparents themselves—to foster a relationship between a child and a grandparent, but such instincts should not prejudice a court where the law does not allow grandparent’s rights.
If you find yourself in a dispute concerning grandparent visitation rights, look first to child-centric solutions that all interested parties can agree upon. A child will benefit from a healthy and loving relationship with a grandparent, and a parent will benefit from that relationship if it is supportive of the parent’s primary right to make final decisions on all matters affecting the child. If the parent is permanently or temporarily unable to meet the needs of the child, the child’s welfare should guide all caretaker decisions. If an agreement cannot be reached after exhausting all good-faith attempts, you might want to call an experienced attorney like those with The Law Office of David A. Martin & Associates, where decades of divorce and family law experience have made us a trusted legal services provider.