Family Law for Grandparents: Visitation
Consider a "grandparent visitation order"Grandparents often do not know that they have legal rights to visit their grandchildren. If your son or daughter is married, visiting with the grandchildren is not normally thought of as a legal issue. You visit during family "get- togethers" and on holidays. Sometimes as a grandparent you visit when called upon to be the "babysitter". Especially given the costs of daycare. When the child's parents divorce or separate, then as a grandparent you often only visit when your own son or daughter has their visitation time with their child. But what you should know is that in most states you can get a court order which specifies your own visitation schedule. In California there is a specific procedure for requesting "grandparent visitation" and a specific legal statute provides for a grand parent visitation order. Usually an "order to show cause" or "notice of motion" is filed with a proposed visitation schedule submitted. Consult an attorney or the self help lawyer at your court.
Appear at the scheduled court dateAt the time you file the motion for visitation, the court clerk will assign a court date, department and time. Serve these papers on the parents in plenty of time before the scheduled court hearing so the parents will also know when to appear in court. They may file an opposition to your request. In an objective manner, briefly state to the court why grandparent visitation is in the "best interests of the child" and why a court order for visitation is needed. For example, you might say: Your Honor: We are the child's grandparents; our grandchild is attached to us; we help him/her with their homework (or take them to ball games etc); we have had this relationship since the child was age ( __ ); however, because of the recent separation (or divorce) of the parents, the (dad or mom) no longer cooperates with our visits. A court ordered visitation schedule is in the best interests of the child because it will ensure continuous, uninterrupted relationship with the grand parents.
Obtain copies of the Judge's orderIf the Judge rules in your favor, you need to obtain a copy of the court order and serve a copy on the parents as well. A practical tip: keep copies of the order with you such as near your telephone at home, in your purse or glove compartment. If there is a dispute, you may need to show a copy of the court order to the police.
Final Cautionary Note: Constitutional Issues and Troxel vs GranvilleCalifornia Family Code 3104 (cited below in "additional resources" section ) is limited by Troxel v Granville, (2000) 530 U.S. 57 (2000) 137 Wash. 2d 1, 969 P.2d 21. The parents constitutional rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness shall not be unduly abridged by a third party demanding visitation against the wishes of a fit parent.
However, the parent's rights must be balanced with the child's welfare. Given the balancing of rights and the strong constitutional rights of a parent, grandparents should make sure that they are at all times acting in the best interests of the child and not creating discord or an adversarial challenge to a fit parent's right to raise their child as they see best.