As a grandparent, you want the best for your grandchildren. When your child gets divorced, you might worry about losing contact with your grandchildren as their time is split between their parents. Even worse, if you see that the children are no longer adequately cared for by either parent, you might want to step in and help. California courts uphold a grandparent’s right to seek visitation or custody of grandchildren in certain situations. We take a look at what’s involved in getting court-ordered visitation or custody of a grandchild.
Grounds for Court-Ordered Visitation of a Grandchild
In an ideal world, your child and his former spouse would honor your wishes to spend time with your grandchildren. Whether you visit when your child has physical custody, or you arrange to spend time with them alone, the time you have with your grandchildren is precious. Unfortunately, families are not always this understanding. If your child doesn’t have partial custody of your grandchildren or does not want to share the time they have with you, you might be able to petition the court for reasonable visitation. The court will want to see evidence of both of the following:
- You have a pre-existing relationship with your grandchildren such that visitation is in their best interest
- The importance of spending time with grandparents outweighs the parents’ rights to make decisions regarding their children.
Either of the child’s parents can ask the court to end grandparent visitation if the situation changes, and it is no longer in the child’s best interest to spend time with their grandparents.
Seeking Custody of Grandchildren
There are times when parents are not able to provide adequate care for their children, and grandparents might want to step in. Whether the situation involves a divorce or not, a grandparent—or any other person, for that matter—can ask the court to name them as the child’s legal guardian. This action may be appropriate when one or both of the parents:
- Have a serious physical or mental illness
- Are in the military and have to go overseas
- Are sent to jail or rehab
- Have a drug or alcohol problem
- Have a history of being abusive
- Cannot take care of their child for some other reason
The court is required to make a decision based on the best interest of the child and will look for the most stable, loving environment for the child. This often means placing the child with willing grandparents.
Having guardianship of a grandchild means that you have the same responsibilities to care for the child as their parents would. You would have full legal and physical custody and would be obligated to provide the child with all of the following:
- Food, clothing, and shelter
- Safety and protection
- Physical and emotional growth
- Medical and dental care
- Education and any special needs
You would be expected to support the child or children financially, with our without help from their parents. As the legal guardian, you become responsible for the wellbeing of the children. If one or both of the child’s parents is able to get back on their feet and file for custody, the court will likely find in their favor. Courts often believe that children should be with a parent if at all possible. However, if you can show that you are better suited to provide for the child, you might be able to retain guardianship.
Call an Experienced Marin County Child Custody Lawyer
Fighting for custody of your grandchildren without the support of the children’s parents is not something you want to do without the help of an experienced child custody attorney in California. The stakes are too high to try to navigate the legal system alone!
The Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan are particularly sensitive when it comes to cases involving the neglect or abuse of children. Paul Nathan and his staff also understand the importance of grandparents in a child’s life. We will fight hard to make sure you receive the custody and support you're hoping for. Call us today at 415-341-1144 to schedule a consultation.