Under California law, a grandparent can ask the court for reasonable visitation with a grandchild. To give a grandparent reasonable visitation with a grandchild, the court has to:
In general, grandparents cannot file for visitation rights while the grandchild’s parents are married. But there are exceptions, like:
If a grandparent has visitation through the courts, and things change and none of these exceptions apply any more, one or both parents can ask the court to end the grandparent’s visitation and the court must then end the grandparent’s visitation rights at that time.
Read California Family Code sections 3100-3105 to read the law about a grandparent’s rights to visitation. This code section also details other situations the court must consider before giving visitation to a grandparent. Make sure you read it carefully and get legal advice from a lawyer if you think they may apply to your case.
Keep in mind that, if possible, it may be best for you and your family to try to resolve these issues out of court. Consider mediation between you and your grandchildren’s parents as a way to openly and safely discuss your needs and concerns to try to reach an agreement that is in the best interests of your grandchildren and that preserves your relationship with them as well as with their parents. Read our section on Resolving Your Dispute Out of Court to learn more about mediation and get some resources to find mediators in your community that can help you. It is possible that if you go to court, you will also have to meet with a mediator from Family Court Services. Click to learn more about Family Court Services mediation.
If you are a grandparent and you are raising your grandchildren either because the parents are absent or are unable to care for their children (like if they are on drugs, or in jail), read our section on Guardianship. When a non-parent wants custody of a child (and not just visitation rights to see the child) it is called guardianship, and there is a separate court process for guardianships.
Under the law, a grandparent who wants to ask the court to order visitation with a grandchild can file a petition in court. It is difficult to figure out exactly how to file this petition. There may already be a family law case filed between the child’s parents (like a divorce, a parentage case, a child support case, or a domestic violence restraining order) and a grandparent may be able to ask for visitation under one of those existing cases. Or, there may be no open case, and you, as the grandparent, may have to file a petition in court starting a case from scratch.
There are currently no official court forms specifically for this purpose, but several courts have developed local forms and templates you can use to ask for visitation with your grandchild. Ask your court’s self-help center or family law facilitator if they have samples, templates or local forms you can use. You can also hire your own private lawyer to help you with your petition or with parts of your case (called “limited-scope representation”). Click for help finding a lawyer. Click for more information on limited-scope representation.
In general, a grandparent who wants to ask for visitation with a grandchild must:
See Going to Court to read more information about how to prepare for your court hearing.
Once the judge makes a decision at the court hearing, the judge will sign a court order. In some courtrooms, the clerk or court staff will prepare this order for the judge’s signature. In other courtrooms, it is the responsibility of the person who asked for the hearing to prepare the court order for the judge to sign. If either side has a lawyer, the lawyer will usually be asked to prepare the order.
If you have to prepare this order, you will need to fill out the Findings and Order After Hearing (Form FL-340), and an attachment detailing the orders that the judge made.
Remember, the family law facilitator or self-help center may be able to help you with these forms. So ask for help or have the family law facilitator or self-help center review the forms to make sure you did not make any mistakes.
If you want to ask for grandparent visitation rights, your court’s family law facilitator or self-help center may be able to help you, or at least refer you to someone in your area who can help you. There are also a lot of other resources with information that can help you understand your rights and decide what is best in your case. And you can look for a lawyer for advice.
Senior Legal Hotline Grandparent Project
This project by the Senior Legal Hotline offers legal advice for grandparents on custody or visitation of grandchildren in California .
GrandCare Support Locator
A service by the AARP Foundation that connects grandparents with national, state and local groups, programs, resources and services that support grandparents or other relative caregivers as well as grandparents facing visitation issues. Also offered is Help from Grandparents Raising Children, which you can use to search for a help in your area.
Grandparenting Tips & Resources
Provided by the AARP, includes information of where to get legal and financial help, as well as other information on issues affecting you and your grandchildren.
Advocates for Grandparent GrandChild Connection
Multigenerational organization which educates the public about grandparents’ rights, advocates for grandchildren, and supports grandparents who have suffered from loss of affection and contact from their grandchildren.
GrandFacts : A State Fact Sheet for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children
Provides an extensive list of resources and contact information for help to grandparents in California.
Grandparents Resource Center (GRC)
A Colorado nonprofit that offers services, some for a fee, to grandparents struggling with rights issues.
The Foundation for Grandparenting
The Foundation is a nonprofit foundation dating back to 1980. This weebsite includes resources, links, articles and other help for grandparents and families.
National Committee of Grandparents for Children's Rights (NCGCR)
The NCGCR strives "to protect the rights of grandparents to secure their grandchildren's health, happiness and well-being." The main focus of this organization seems to be advocating for grandparents raising grandchildren, but clicking on the "Resources" tab and scrolling down will take you to some information about grandparent visitation rights.
Grandfamilies State Law and Policy Resource Center
National legal resource in support of grandfamilies both within and outside the child welfare system. This resource center has a searchable database of laws and legislation affecting grandfamilies both inside and outside the foster care system for all 50 states, and other relevant resources and publications.