• Grandparent Visitation Rights in California

Grandparent Visitation Rights in California

There may come a time in your life in which you need to get formal court ordered visitation rights for your grandchild in California. Fortunately, the process to do so is not that complicated. The evolving law pertaining to visitation rights of grandparents in California has certainly been rocky, and the rights of grandparents not always recognized. Read on to learn more about grandparent visitation rights in California and the specific criteria that will have to be met to obtain such an order.

History of  Grandparent Visitation Rights in California

Historically in California, grandparent visitation has not always been permitted. In recent years, however, family dynamics have changed considerably.  Today households consist of family members of multiple generations. Often grandparents and non-parents are raising, supporting, or caring for children in the family. With the changing landscape, California law has evolved to address California custody and visitation disputes as they pertain to the rights of grandparents.

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, in a proceeding described in Section 3021, the court may grant reasonable visitation to a grandparent of a minor child of a party to the proceeding if the court determines that visitation by the grandparent is in the best interest of the child. See Family Law Code section 3103.

The key focus in all court decisions involving children is “what is in the best interest of the child?” California Family Law Code Section 3102 allows relatives (including grandparents) visitation over the objection of the surviving parent. If a parent has died, the court will consider both a deceased parent’s wishes and the surviving parent’s decision in approving or denying grandparent’s visitation rights. California law further confirms that grandparents do not lose their rights even when a stepparent adopts their grandchild.

When Grandparents May Petition for Visitation

Grandparents may petition for visitation of their grandchildren if any of the following situations occur:

  1. The grandchild’s parents die
  2. While a family law case is pending in family court and custody is at issue
  3. The parents are not married to each other
  4. The parents live in separate households

In the event the parents are not married to each other, and the grandparent seeks visitation rights, the court will perform a balancing test. The test is used to decide if there is a bond between the grandparent and the child. This information will be balanced with the parents’ rights to raise their child.

If the parents are married, yet live in separate households, the court will consider the following information when granting grandparent visitation rights:

  1. Whether a parent knows the whereabouts of the other parent
  2. How long a parent has been absent from his/her child’s life
  3. Whether a parent supports the grandparent’s petition for visitation
  4. Where the child resides
  5. Whether the child has been adopted by a stepparent.

If both parents oppose the grandparent’s visitation order, the order will likely be denied. If this occurs, the grandparents will need to assert evidence that persuades the court that the visitation is in the child’s best interest.

How to File for Visitation Rights of Grandparents in California

Under California law, a grandparent can ask for reasonable visitation with their grandchild. The court must find the following to order reasonable visitation between the grandparent and child:

  1. There must be a pre-existing relationship between the grandparent and grandchild that has “engendered a bond.” Such a bond means that visitation is in the best interest of the child.
  2. Balance the interest of the child in having visitation with a grandparent with the rights of the parent to make decisions about their child.

Filing for Grandparent Visitation in Active Family Law Case

If there is an active family law case pending such as a divorce or legal separation involving the grandchildren, a grandparent must first join that family law case. This can be done by filing a Summons and Petition for Joinder. A Petition for Joinder is required when a grandparent wants to take part in an existing family law case to get visitation orders. In order to file a Petition for Joinder, the following documents will need to be filed:

  1. Summons (Joinder) (FL-375)
  2. Petition for Joinder
  3. Notice of Motion and Declaration for Joinder (FL-371)

Unfortunately, the Petition for Joinder is not a Judicial Council form, however some counties have established their own local form for this purpose. If there is no local form available, the Petition for Joinder will have to be prepared from scratch and submitted on court pleading paper.

Petitioning for Grandparent Visitation When No Active Family Law Case

If there is no pending family law case, a grandparent must file a new case by completing the following forms:

  1. Summons (FL-210)
  2. Petition/Complaint for Grandparent Visitation
  3. UCCJEA Declaration (FL-105)
  4. Request for Order (Form FL-300)

As with the Petition for Joinder, the Petition for Grandparent Visitation is also not a Judicial Council form. Some counties, however, have designed a local form for this purpose. If there is no local form, the Petition will have to be custom drafted on court pleading paper.  The proceedings must be filed in the county where the child has resided for the previous six months and the applicable filing fees paid. The court clerk will set the matter for a formal hearing. After the filing of the paperwork, copies of all filed documents must be served on all interested parties (both parents). The Proof of Service (Form FL-330) must be filed with the court before attending the court hearing.

Contact A People’s Choice if you would like to file for grandparent visitation rights in California or learn more about how we can help you. You can reach us by calling 800-747-2780.

Get help with your California legal documents today!

A People’s Choice can save you hundreds of dollars by preparing your legal documents instead of an expensive attorney!


We would love to know your thoughts on this article. Connect with us over on Google+ or Twitter and join the conversation

By |2018-01-18T15:47:09-07:00January 10th, 2016|Family Law|25 Comments

About the Author:

Sandra M. McCarthy, founder of A People’s Choice Inc., has worked exclusively in the legal field since 1976. She served as the 2004-2005 President of CALDA (California Association of Legal Document Assistants). She obtained a Paralegal Certificate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. During her career in the legal field, she has worked as a freelance paralegal, law office manager and paralegal studies teacher, and has co-authored numerous legal publications and written hundreds of self-help legal articles. As a registered Legal Document Assistant, Sandy is dedicated to providing affordable, low-cost, self-help document preparation services for California consumers in all 58 counties.


  1. Kathryn Miller March 22, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    We live in AZ and for going on two years we have not been allowed to visit our 3 Grandchildren. We tried to reach out to no avail but e mails from our son-in-law that we are not allowed to contact the children and if we show u at the house we all be turned away. We are at a loss as we have loaned them money which they refuse to pay back even at 20.00 a month and have all given them a considerable amount of money over the years . Mu son-in-law was deployed for years and I stayed and helped my daughter with the children , we have given and given them physical and financial support as well as not interfering in their lifestyle we just want to hug and visit our grandchildren. our extended family is very upset with them denying us visitation including our son-in-law Father. They offer no explanation expect we have let our son move into our guesthouse who has been ill and just had 6 surgeries since April our daughter has never liked her brother except when he is available to help her -she was a difficult daughter to raise but enjoyed a lovely childhood I would appreciate some advice I am not interested n hurting our son-in-law career but I received another e-mail from him this morning not to contact the family. We are up in years with health problems and just want to see our only Grandchildren Would appreciate some advice, Thank You.

    • Sandy McCarthy March 29, 2019 at 9:59 pm

      I would recommend you talk to a lawyer for some advice and direction.

  2. Melanie Blueford July 27, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    I have full legal & sole custody of my kids along with a protective order for me & my kids which was granted via family court. We just went through a legal process to change my kids names & they now have my husband’s last name. I was just informed that my kid’s biological dad’s mom was going to file for visitation. Could I object that?

    • Sandy McCarthy July 27, 2018 at 7:37 pm

      I you want to oppose to what she is requesting, then yes it would seem you should file a formal objection.

  3. Brett Appleby July 23, 2018 at 11:14 pm

    Hello I’m 16 and I live in California with my brother his wife and two nephews. He got custody over me when I was around 8. I hate it here. He is always drunk and always causes problems. My grandma lives in Nevada and I am currently here visiting. She wants me here too. She had custody of my two cousins a year ago until they both recently turned 18 and went into the military. But I want out of my hose and want to know what has to happen so I can live with my grandma thank you for your time and help

    • Sandy McCarthy July 24, 2018 at 9:21 pm

      Hi Brett – I would suggest you have your grandma talk to at attorney about options.

  4. Cerilo July 11, 2018 at 2:34 pm

    Hello, my spouse and I have been in our granddaughters life since birth, she’s 2 now, we had her visiting us 2nights 1 day out of the week but suddenly the mother because she ain’t speaking to my son(dad) she has taken her mothers advice and has kept our granddaughter away from us.
    We are DEVASTATED. We’ve asked her for a Sunday and she says she’ll get back to us?
    I am sad knowing that my granddaughter misses us so much. And I can’t do much for her to see her.

    • Sandy McCarthy July 15, 2018 at 12:59 pm

      You may want to see if you qualify to file a Petition for grandparent rights. We can help you with this process.

  5. Tami June 22, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    My Daughter is moving out of state with my grandchildren, what do I need to file to have visitation with them?

    • Sandy McCarthy June 24, 2018 at 6:13 pm

      Talk to a lawyer for direction. Once you know what you want to do you can recontact us to do the paperwork.

  6. Julie September 15, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    Thank You for a great article that is very easy to understand. My Mother and I had custody of my granddaughter until she went into kindergarten. My daughter had to get clean off street drugs get back on her medication for being bi-polar. My mother passed in 2014. Since then I have watched my daughter again go back into a world that has destroyed us. Concern is my granddaughter who is 9 years old and my grandson who is 4 years old.
    My daughter has threatened to hurt me in front of grand kids, yell and screamed at me in front of grand kids. The grand kids are seeing things no kids should see. The 4 year old acts out at me, because his mom does. My granddaughter who I had custody of for almost 4 years, cries when she is with me. I need help getting grandparent right to see them.

    • Sandy McCarthy September 18, 2017 at 12:29 pm

      Getting grandparent visitation can be difficult sometimes, depending on the circumstances. You would first need to research if your set of circumstances is one that would be a good candidate for this type of request. If so, then we can certainly help you prepare the necessary documents to seek grandparent visits.

  7. Liz Ramos September 5, 2017 at 10:47 pm

    Hi Sandy,

    I have not seen my grandson since December and I tried filing in san Mateo county but they said I had to be apart of the order that is in effect now but I never was apart of the court order. how do I go about doing that my son now that father of my grandson has a current restraining order in place. so that is why the mother states I can not see him but Im not the one with the restraining order. so do I have any right at all as his grandmother?

    • Sandy McCarthy September 10, 2017 at 2:31 am

      Have you talked to an attorney about what your rights are as a grandparent?

    • J davis February 5, 2019 at 7:13 pm

      File a joinder to current case

      • Sandy McCarthy February 7, 2019 at 6:17 am

        We can help with that paperwork to join a grandparent visitation pleading. Give us a call at 800-747-2780.

  8. Jodene Garris July 19, 2017 at 12:33 am

    since my granddaughter father was arrested for abusing his oldest daughter in March I have provided most care for two granddaughters who have lived in same house with me for over a year. my daughter since March can not properly care for the babys either. she gave me verbal and text messsages saying they were now in my custody/ when. she walked out I didn’t want to go legal route and just wanted make sure kids had WIC and foodstamps which for a while mother did, give me. things i needed. until June when WIC wasn’t recertified and she
    didn’t have foodstamps to buy milk etc, did I finally tell her i was going to file for aid myself. she then tookkthe babys and left them with a relative that we are not close to and the babys have never met. so now apparantly some legal papers have been filed and i don’t know what.but i want my granddaughters brought home. they have lost both parents their family structure all people they saw daily and all they own and know and literally dropped off with a stranger to them where noone they were close to is. what do i do

    • Sandy McCarthy July 19, 2017 at 4:05 am

      You probably need to find out immediately what the other documents were that were filed. You may be able to file opposing paperwork. Obviously if you need legal advice, you should talk to an attorney. However if you just need to file opposing paperwork, we can help you!

  9. Jacqueline davis July 15, 2017 at 4:43 am

    Hello my daughter has recently died a little over six months ago after that the father refuse to let me see my grandchilsren so i filled for gaurdianship and lost but i was granted informal visits due to the fact that i have helped take care of my grandchildren for 9 years recently the father went back on his agreement and stop the visitation due to the fact that i question him after my youngest grandchild had been neglected by him i live in merced county and it is very hard ro get proper help i dont have much money but i need help can someone please give me some advice please

    • Sandy McCarthy July 15, 2017 at 2:30 pm

      If you were granted visitation in the guardianship and the father is now not allowing you to see the children you probably will need to file paperwork with the court. Our services are not free so you may want to go to the self help center to see if they can give you some direction to prepare the documents yourself.

  10. Grandparents Rights February 9, 2017 at 10:12 am

    Wonderful article, well organized and very informative

  11. Lisa October 6, 2016 at 6:04 pm


    I may need help in the near future to obtain visitation rights to my grandson. We reside in Texas and have been along with his mom and my other siblings his whole life. He is almost 11. His mom went to Californialate august to temporarily help our uncle who is sick, since then she has been very distant, refusing to speak to me about anything and rude and saying she does not want to come back to Texas. It has been a rocky road throughout his life, bio dad was drugs and abusive my grandson stayed with me most of the time at my home throughout the years, bio dad terminated rights but my daughter kept seeing him so we moved to another city to get her away from it and have been here for three years going on four living in the same roof except for one year while she had her own apartment in same complex she rarely kept jobs and ones she kept would not pay bills, sometimes she stays in bed and is unstable. I tried to love and support them both trying to get her on her feet.I have always been my grandson’s stability. He knows his mom is thinking about just taking him and not coming back and because of her actions, I feel she may not let me have any visitation. He has lost bio dad’s family when dad terminated rights the whole family didn’t want nothing more to do with He has suffered loss so much already we are who he knows he was raised with my younger daughter like brother and sister. When he heard us talking on phone about him leaving he broke out in hives and tells me comments on and off like “Will you still be my Ninny if I am far?” And how do I find you if I need you? We do have family in san francisco my cousins but they do not believe me when I tell them to watch out for him. My daughter has been mailcious. He needs me, he needs his family here and to know we still love him and want him in our lives. If it comes to this, how do I go about requesting visitation if I am in Texas and he is there in california? Please help me prepare in case this happens. I am trying to prepare him and going about our daily routines with boy scouts and soccer, has been very hard on our hearts. Thank you.

    • Sandy McCarthy October 9, 2016 at 3:08 pm

      If your grandson lives in Texas and has residency there, you may want to consult a Texas lawyer regarding guardianship. Otherwise, you could consider filing a grandparent visitation proceeding once he has residency in California. Unfortunately we cannot advise you on how to “prepare” for such unforeseen possibilities. Consult an attorney if you need legal guidance and consult. Our office is limited to preparing legal documentation.

  12. kathryn lopez June 5, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    I need to speek to my grandsons. I had to give them up after 8yrs because of health problems. The mother never made an effort to see them the whole time I had them.I had to raise them alone. No help fron her or my son. If it hadn’t been for me these kids would have been lost in foster homes.no one on her family wanted them. Can you help me get vistation or even talk to them on the phone? I miss them so much.

    • Sandy McCarthy June 26, 2016 at 9:41 pm

      We are so sorry to hear of your circumstances. Grandparent right proceedings can sometimes be initiated under certain circumstances. but you have not provided enough information. I would suggest you call our office. You also may want to speak with an attorney to find out what options are available under your circumstances. Then contact our office to prepare your paperwork.

Comments are closed.

error: Alert: Content is protected !!