Skip Navigation Links

Grandparent Visitation


If parents refuse to let them visit, grandparents can ask for visitation with their grandchildren in some circumstances. In order to grant these rights, the judge must find that there is a pre-existing bond between grandparent and grandchild. The judge must then balance the best interest of the child in having visitation with a grandparent against the rights of the parents to make decisions about their child. 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Self-Help
  2. Practice Guides
  3. Forms
  4. Statutes
  5. Websites
  6. Community Resources

BASICS

Grandparent visitation orders are only available if (1) the parents are living separately, (2) one parent has been missing for over a month, (3) one parent joins in the petition for visitation, (4) the child does not live with either parent, or (5) the child has been adopted by a stepparent. To request visitation, grandparents join the ongoing case (divorce, parentage, etc.) between the parents. If there is no ongoing case, they can file their own "Complaint for Grandparent Visitation." An excellent explanation, with links to forms, is available at the California Courts' website, http://courts.ca.gov/17976.htm

Joining the Parents' Ongoing Case

If there is an ongoing divorce or parentage case between the parents, grandparents file a "Petition for Joinder" under that same case number. (If you do not know the case number, contact the court to find it out.) Sacramento County has a packet of forms and instructions for this, available on the web at http://www.saccourt.ca.gov/family/docs/fl-petition-for-joinder-person-packet.pdf. Once the grandparents have joined the case, they can file a Request for Order (FL-300 and related forms) asking for visitation. 

Other counties may have their own local forms. If not, grandparents may need to customize a petition on pleading paper (specially formatted paper to use in court). Pleading paper can be downloaded from the Law Library's website at http://www.saclaw.org/uploads/SacramentoPleadingWeb.doc. The local family law facilitator's office may offer assistance or instructions for this process. Forms and instructions are also available on the California Courts' website at http://courts.ca.gov/17976.htm.  

Filing an Independent "Complaint for Grandparent Visitation"

If there is no open case, but the parents are not married or are living apart, grandparents may file an independent complaint for visitation under Cal. Family Code section 3104 (or section 3102 if one parent is deceased). 

In Sacramento, there is a local form for this: FL/E-LP-606 (Petition for Grandparent Visitation). The Sacramento County court has put out a packet with detailed instructions: http://www.saccourt.ca.gov/family/docs/fl-grandparent-visitation.pdf.

Other counties may have their own local forms. If not, grandparents may need to customize a petition on pleading paper (specially formatted paper to use in court). Pleading paper can be downloaded from the Law Library's website at http://www.saclaw.org/uploads/SacramentoPleadingWeb.doc.  The local family law facilitator's office may offer assistance or instructions for this process. Forms and instructions are also available on the California Courts' website at http://courts.ca.gov/17976.htm

1. SELF HELP 

These books are highly regarded "plain English" explanations of the law, written by attorneys or other legal experts. They include basic legal discussion and procedures. These titles may be found in the Self-Help section of the Law Library.

Manual for Grandparent-Relative Caregivers and Their Advocates
KFC 1181.5 .P54
Manual Para los Abuelos-Familiares Criando a los Niños KFC 134 .Z9 M36
Beginning on page 37 (page 27 in the Spanish version), this manual discusses visitation rights of grandparents under California law, and outlines the process of requesting visitation in various circumstances. While the book's main audience is grandparents whose children are incarcerated, this section applies to any grandparent seeking visitation.
Electronic Access: via Internet, at http://www.prisonerswithchildren.org/pubs/gpmanual.pdf (English) or http://www.prisonerswithchildren.org/pubs/abuelas.pdf (Spanish). 

Grandparents' Rights: Your Legal Guide to Protecting Your Relationship with Your Grandchildren KF 547.Z9 T78
Although this book is not California-specific, it offers good information about rights and tactics available to grandparents. Chapters 2 and 3 focus on visitation rights.  

2.  PRACTICE GUIDES 

Although treatises and practice guides are written for attorneys, people representing themselves may also find these resources useful. These materials provide more detailed information than the self-help books. 

California Child Custody Litigation and Practice  KFC 130 .C34
Chapter 13 discusses custody and visitation claims by non-parents, focusing specifically on grandparent visitation beginning at Section 13.19. The chapter includes a sample petition for visitation for use by the grandparents when one parent has died.
Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw. 

California Family Law Practice & Procedure  KFC 115 .L87  
This book includes information about how to request visitation and what factors the judge will consider when deciding whether to grant your request. Sample language and instructions on grandparent visitation can be found in Chapter 32.
Electronic Access:  On the Law Library's computers, using the Matthew Bender CD

3.  FORMS

In Sacramento, forms and instructions are available from the court's website, as described above. In other counties, contact the court clerk or family law facilitator to find out if there are local forms available. If not, forms and instructions can be found on the California Courts' Self-Help page on grandparent visitation (http://courts.ca.gov/17976.htm) or can be adapted from California Family Law Practice & Procedure or California Child Custody Litigation and Practice, discussedin Section 2, above.   

4.  STATUTES

The laws on grandparent visitation are located in California Family Code Sections 3100-3105. The standards for determining the "best interests of the child" are set out in California Family Code Section 3040.  The current un-annotated (just the statutes without editorial analysis by the publishers) Family Code is online at http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes.xhtml. Alternatively, use the print annotated code volumes on the shelf at the Law Library: 
Deering's California Code Annotated KFC 30.5 .D4 P76 (Compact)
West's Annotated California Codes KFC 30 .W48 P76 

5.  WEB SITES

California Courts' Online Self-Help Center: Visitation Rights of Grandparents
http://courts.ca.gov/17976.htm  (In English and Spanish)
This official website from the state of California offers an explanation of visitation rights and links to court forms. It also offers links to a number of websites and organizations that offer information and assistance to grandparents facing custody or visitation issues.

AARP Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
http://bit.ly/1dT1uX1
The AARP has many resources for grandparents who are raising grandchildren. It also provides related information, including information on visitation rights.  This page offers links to many other organizations and resources that can be helpful.   

AARP Grandparent Visitation Tips
http://bit.ly/1fNBnvT
This page offers specific information about ways to resolve visitation problems without going to court, and what to do if court action is necessary.

6.  COMMUNITY RESOURCES

Senior Legal Hotline of Legal Services of California
444 North 3rd Street #312 Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 551-2140
(800) 222-1753
http://slh.lsnc.net/
Free legal assistance for Sacramento grandparents/caregiver relatives on custody or visitation of grandchildren.

Grandparent Advocacy Network of Northern California
Contact: Sandy Weiss
Phone: 530-756-0183
Email: WeissSBK@comcast.net
This group hosts monthly informal lunches for grandparents.

AARP Foundation GrandFamilies Resources 
http://www.aarp.org/relationships/friends-family/info-08-2011/grandfamlies-guide-resources.html
Listings of public and private assistance to help grandparents and other relatives raising children.

Updated 04/14 kf