Can a Parent Stop Grandparents From Seeing Their Grandchildren?
Most grandparents eagerly await time with their grandchildren. Not only are they the next generation, they are often much-loved additions to the family. However, sometimes, the parents of the children may have other plans. Breaches in the family may cause the parents to decide that they do not want to spend as much time with the grandparents, or that they want to withhold the grandchildren from the grandparents.
Can a parent stop grandparents from seeing their grandchildren?
Legally, grandparents do not have specific rights to see their grandchildren. The parents of the child have the right to determine who the child spends time with, including whether grandparents have any right to spend time with their grandchildren. A simple desire to spend time with grandchildren, or even shared blood, does not negate a parent’s rights to determine what children do and who they go around.
However, there are some circumstances under which grandparents may have the right to pursue more time with their grandchildren.
Pursuing Custody of Grandchildren
Sometimes, grandparents may see that they can provide a better environment for their grandchildren that the biological parents. This does not mean that you can pursue custody of your grandchildren if you, for example, have more income or a better house than the parents of the child. However, there are some conditions under which the parents might be unfit to provide reasonable care for the child.
If grandparents note abuse on the part of the parents, they can pursue an investigation through DCS that may result in the parents losing custody, either temporarily or permanently, of a child. Abuse might include physical harm, emotional abuse, or even sexual abuse suffered in the home. In order to remove custody from the parents, DCS will need to see proof of abuse and that the parents committed that abuse or did not protect the child to prevent abuse from occurring in the home. Once the child has been removed from the parents’ custody, grandparents can often pursue legal custody of the child while the parents take steps to improve the living situation, including taking anger management classes or parenting classes. In cases of severe abuse, or where parents might not follow the plan intended to help them regain custody of their children, grandparents may have the opportunity to pursue permanent custody of their grandchildren.
If a parent obviously neglects a child, including failing to provide for the child’s basic needs, the grandparents will need to report the neglect and may have the right to pursue custody of the neglected child. Obvious signs of neglect may include a child who is persistently dirty, does not receive needed medical care for new or ongoing conditions, or does not receive adequate nutrition. Neglect may also include failing to provide adequate supervision for a child, which may be particularly easy to prove if the child suffers injury or gets into legal trouble because of the lack of supervision.
Drug Use in the Home
Sometimes, grandparents may become aware of drug use or alcohol abuse in the home, which could prevent a parent from providing adequate care for a child. Often, drug-addicted parents may have a hard time providing adequate supervision due to inebriation or “highs.” Furthermore, parents with drug addictions may prioritize drugs over paying the bills or taking care of needed responsibilities at home, which can result in child neglect.
Pursuing Visitation Rights for Grandparents
Most of the time, parents have the right to determine whether grandchildren will see their grandparents. In fact, it can prove easier for some grandparents to actively pursue custody of their grandchildren because of ongoing neglect or abuse than to pursue visitation rights. However, if you can prove that it is in the best interests of the grandchild or grandchildren to spend time with you, as a grandparent, you may have the right to pursue court-ordered visitation.
You Have a Strong Relationship with Your Grandchild
Grandparents often develop strong relationships with their grandchildren for a variety of reasons. You might, for example, live with your grandchild early in their lives. In some cases, circumstances may cause you to be your grandchild’s primary caregiver for a long time: providing care while parents work, for example, or even taking temporary custody of your grandchildren. In those cases, it may prove detrimental to your grandchild to suddenly prevent them from interacting with you altogether. To improve the overall mental and emotional health of the child, the courts may order that it is beneficial for the child to have mandated visitation with you. Often, this is a more effective strategy when your grandchild is older and can testify about the strength of your relationship.
Previous Abuse or Neglect
In cases where the grandchild was previously abused or neglected, the grandparents may have been among the first to notice that something was wrong. In some cases, you may pursue visitation with your grandchild on the grounds that you want to prevent future potential abuse.
In some cases, such as one or both parents being in jail, grandparents may need to pursue legal visitation rights for a child in foster care. If your child is in jail and you cannot take custody of your grandchild, but still want to pursue a relationship, you may have the right to petition the courts for visitation. However, if custody of the parents has already been terminated and the child has been adopted, you may not have the right to pursue legal visitation.
Do You Need to Pursue Visitation with Your Grandchildren?
If you have questions about your right to pursue custody of your grandchildren, especially if your child is in jail or deceased, you have a strong relationship with your grandchildren but have been denied access to them, or you feel that it would be in your grandchildren’s best interest to maintain a relationship with you, Pedrick Law Group, APC can help. Contact us today at 18-325-3934 to schedule a free consultation that will help you learn more about your rights as a grandparent under California law.