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Can Grandparents Seek Custody in California?

Are you a grandparent who wants to know if you can go to court to ask for custody of your grandchild? Or, do you want to ask for visitation rights? If so, it’s important for you to know that grandparents’ visitation and custody rights are handled differently in each state.

Grandparents' visitation rights and custody rights in California require certain circumstances.

In this article, we’ll explain under what circumstances you can ask the family court for physical custody or visitation rights of your grandchild.

Grandparents' visitation rights


For a grandparent to ask the court for reasonable visitation of their grandchild, the court has to find that the grandparent had a pre-existing relationship with their grandchild and that for some reason, that bond is not being endangered.

The court must also determine that it is in the grandchild’s best interests to have grandparent visitation.

When a grandchild’s parents are married, usually the grandparent cannot request visitation rights, but there are some exceptions, such as:

  • The parents don’t live together

  • One of the parents is missing

  • One of the parents decides to join the grandparent’s petition to the court for visitation

  • The child does not live with their mother or father

  • A stepparent adopted the grandchild

Seeking custody (guardianship) of a grandchild

A baby is walking outside with the help of its parents, who are holding its hands and are just out of frame

Perhaps it’s not visitation you’re seeking of your grandchild, but child custody. You may want to seek physical custody because your grandchild is being neglected or abused because the parents are mentally ill, they can’t afford the child, the parents are incarcerated, they have a drug problem, or because Child Protective Services (CPS) has gotten involved and removed the child from their parent’s home.

In California, when someone other than the parents is seeking custody of a child, it’s called “probate guardianship of the person.”

When a grandparent becomes a grandchild’s guardian, he or she receives a court order to make decisions on behalf of their grandchild, such as educational and medical decisions, and so on.

When grandparents have custody, what does it mean for the child's parents?

A guardianship does not terminate parental rights; the child's parents can still ask to have reasonable contact with their son or daughter. And, a guardianship can be ended if the parents regain the ability to care for their child.

To explore your options as a grandparent, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Cage & Miles today.


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