A child who reportedly is in California staying with his father's relatives is the subject of a grandparent custody case. The child's father is accused of shooting the child's mother in an act of domestic violence which, the victim's relatives say, followed a history of emotional abuse.
The child traveled to California shortly after his mother's death, and his maternal grandmother has not been able to see him since that time, although she has spoken to him over the phone. Because the grandmother had been significantly involved in the child's life before the death, she is now asking a court to determine the extent of her grandparents' rights. While she hopes that the court will award her full grandparent custody, she will settle for visitation rights if that is all she can have under the law.
Like in the state where this child's grandmother lives, California law does not afford grandparents the same legal rights that a parent has to care for and have a relationship with children. Normally, a California court will only award grandparents custody in cases of serious abuse and neglect, or when the parent has simply abandoned their child. California law may also recognize a grandparent as a "de facto" parent when he or she assumes the role of the child's primary caregiver and provider.
Grandparents may also have visitation rights in California. For example, when a child's parent dies, a court may award the grandparents of the deceased parent visitation if that is in the child's best interests. Futhermore, when a child's parents are not married, grandparents may have visitation if they can show a pre-existing bond with their grandchild.
However, before a court will award visitation, the court will also consider whether the child's parents object to the visits. If a parent objects, then the grandparents must show the court proof that the parent's decision not to allow the visits is not in the child's best interests.
While securing grandparents' rights to visits can be difficult, California grandparents who want to maintain a relationship with their grandchildren may be able to get a court order to assist them in doing so.
Source: Patch, "Mother seeks custody of slain daughter's sons", Lorraine Swanson, Sept. 20, 2012