Articles Posted in Grandparents Rights

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grandparent visitationGrandparent visitation and rights in a divorce. A divorce can have far-reaching effects for people beyond the couple that is calling it quits. Children may be moved away from familiar neighborhood schools, friends, and extended family – grandparents, in particular. This can be devastating to not only the children, but to the grandparents, as well. In some cases, divorced parents are eager to include grandparents in their children’s lives, but what if parents do not view grandparents as a valuable asset to their children? Do grandparents have any rights to visitation following a divorce? Do grandchildren have a right to interact with their grandparents? The questions are more complicated than some people realize, and a solution may not be viable without the assistance of an experienced family law  attorney.

When One or Both Parents Object to Grandparent Visitation

The rights of parents are generally supported over those of non parents. When both parents prefer that grandparents not be granted visitation, or if only the custodial parent objects to it, convincing a judge otherwise can be extremely challenging. The court may grant visitation to grandparents only under limited circumstances:

  • When a relationship already exists between the grandchildren and grandparents that “has engendered a bond” wherein the best interests of the child would be promoted through such visitation;
  • The wishes of the parents and their right to make decisions about their children are balanced with the best interests of the child in allowing visitation with a grandparent.

These legal parameters may be interpreted differently depending on individual circumstances, of course. Preparing a strong case requires time and careful thought.

History of Judicial Thought on Grandparent Visitation

California courts have ruled on several general issues that have bearing on grandparent visitation.  The first has to do with whether or not grandparents must prove that parents are unfit in order to gain visitation rights. On this matter, the court’s ruling was that even a fit parent’s decisions ought to be subject to court review. Proving fitness or lack thereof is not necessary for grandparents to file a claim for visitation.

The second issue revolves around the potentially onerous stipulations parents might place on grandparent visitation. In such circumstances, the courts may rule in favor of grandparents.

Finally, the courts have stated that when parents refuse grandparent visitation out of spite or anger, they may rule in favor of grandparents.

How and When to File for Grandparent Visitation

If an active case for divorce or legal separation is pending, grandparents are required to join that family law case.  Otherwise, grandparents must complete several forms in order to file a new case. Continue reading →

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GrandparentsIn today’s challenging economic situation, grandparents are playing a more pivotal role in their grandchildren’s lives. This does not just mean that grandparents are visiting their grandchildren more, or that they are helping out a little more, but rather financially assisting in rearing their grandchildren. According to Reuters, the AARP reported that today, 37 percent of grandparents are assisting with the daily living costs of their grandchildren. Despite the large percentage of grandparents helping to support their grandchildren, our Northern California family law attorneys are still assisting many grandparents fighting for the right to visit their grandchildren.

Grandparent Rights in America:

In 2000, the grandparent’s right to visitation took a hard hit and has subsequently become a very difficult case to win. That year the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Troxel v. Granville, wherein a Washington state law that allowed courts to grant visitation rights to grandparents if it was in the child’s “best interest” was struck down. This decision led many other states to strike down similar laws. However, grandparents still may be granted visitation in some states across the U.S. .

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Local community members have many different family structures. Different arrangements present unique family law issues that were not as common even a few decades ago. For example, there are many more cases of children being raised, in part or in whole, by their grandparents. In many cases a teenager or young adult may have a child and be unable to provide the care that the child needs. They may turn to their own parents for assistance. In other situations, there are sometimes adults who are unable to manage the responsibility of raising a child, whether it be because of financial difficulties, drug and alcohol dependency, or any number of other reasons. In these scenarios it is common for one or more of the child’s grandparents to take an active role in providing food, clothing, shelter, and a stable environment. Such arrangements differ greatly in how they are managed and the length of time that they exist. grandparent.jpg

Circumstances are constantly changing, and a parent who cannot provide a proper home one day may be in a different position a month, a year, or a decade later. Major conflicts can arise when a parent attempts to remove his or her child from a grandparent who has been acting as a parent. Naturally, the longer the grandparent has been caring for the child, the more difficult it usually is to find an easy solution to a potential custody dispute.

California grandparent adoption law allows a grandparent to turn to the justice system to gain permanent custody of a grandchild in certain situations. Usually, a grandparent must demonstrate that allowing the child to live with his or her natural parent would be a risk to the health, safety, and well-being of the child. For example, if the grandparent can prove that the parent is abusive or on drugs, then a court may terminate the parent’s rights and award custody to the grandparent.

Of course, biological parents can always sign over their rights as parents and allow the child’s grandparents to adopt. It is not uncommon for parents who have not had much contact with their children for an extended period of time to tell the grandparents that they will sign over their rights. However, as our Santa Rosa child custody attorneys know from experience, when it actually comes to voluntarily giving up their rights, parents often change their minds, which can lead to a difficult and painful custody battle.

At the end of the day, a court that is tasked with deciding whether to award custody to a parent or grandparent is almost always going to be faced with an extremely difficult choice. All court battles are emotional, but few are more contentious than one where a relationship with a child hangs in the balance. Ultimately, the court must determine what is in the best interests of the child and will shape its decision around that question.

Community members heading into such a case must be prepared for a grueling fight that may leave broken relationships. Having an experienced advocate is essential to ensuring that rights are protected and no legal stone is left unturned. The fact that the law in this area focuses on the “best interest of the child,” means that the court has much discretion, and the quality of the advocacy can make all the difference.

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