Attorney At Law
In general parents hold the rights to determine what is in the best interest of a child when making decisions about a child’s life. Decisions to allow grandparent’s rights to see their grandchildren are within the scope of this general power of the parents to make decisions about a minor child’s life. However, certain circumstances can complicate this issue if relationships between parents and grandparents are strained or one parent deceases and the grandparents of the deceased parent are seeking rights to visit their grandchildren. If visitation cannot be agreed upon between parent and grandparents documents may be filed with the court to determine if visitation orders are in the best interest of the child.
Grandparents have rights under the law specifically in the following two cases, during the pendency of a dissolution, and if one parent has deceased. In both circumstances the court looks to different factors to determine what is in the best interest of the child. The California family code states that the court is allowed to grant visitation rights if there is a preexisting relationship between grandchild and grandparent that created a bond leading to visitation as within the best interest of the grandchild. Additionally, the court makes its determination upon petition by a grandparent by balancing the interest of the child against the rights of the parent.
On the other hand, the court presumes visitation with grandparents is not within the best interest of the child if both parents agree to not allow visitation. There is also a presumption under the law that parents are fit to make such decisions for their child, unless the grandparent can rebut that the parent is not a fit parent in the paperwork they file with the court seeking visitation. Thus, unless special circumstances apply, rights of a grandparent are limited and subject to the presumptive rights of parent’s right to rear their own children, including making decisions about whom they spend time with amongst their family members.