The highest court in another state recently issued a decision that curbed grandparents' visitation rights with respect to their grandchildren, but grandparents in California who may feel the need to pay attention to the reasoning in this decision.
This court held that before awarding grandparent visitation over the objection of the child's parent, the grandparent must show by clear and convincing evidence that not granting the visits would harm the child. Experts have described this as a very high standard of proof that will, in effect, give parents a lot of authority to keep grandparents from their grandchildren. In essence, grandparent rights will give way to a parent's rights to decide what is best for his or her children.
The Court's decision may be rooted in the United States Constitution. The United States Supreme Court has held that there is a fundamental right of a parent to have a parental relationship with his or her child and therefore make decisions that will be presumed to be in the child's best interest. For this reason, courts will usually defer to a parent's wishes and are often reluctant to give others--- including grandparents--- access to and authority over a child even when a parent objects.
The case is no different in California. In California, grandparents will normally not get custody or visitation except in situations where the child's parents have abused or neglected the child and state authorities have intervened. Other exceptions may apply, such as when a grandparent assumes the role of the child's primary caregiver for an extended period. It would seem that California's law regarding grandparents' rights is very similar to the decision reached in this court case.
While grandparent visitation may be difficult to get when a parent objects to it, it is not impossible.
Source: Courier-Journal, "Kentucky Supreme Court weakens grandparents' rights to see grandchildren," Oct. 26, 2012