In a recent case of Stuard v. Stuard, a California Court of Appeal granted a petition by a child’s grandparents for visitation over the objections of the divorced parents of the child who both objected to their visitation. The court found the parents had encouraged extensive daily grandparent-grandchild contact. The grandparents were not required to prove parental unfitness. The court found the grandparents had been an integral part of their granddaughter’s life from birth until several years later when the father, who then had custody, began blocking visitation. The parents had permitted and encouraged the grandparents participation in their granddaughter’s daily life, school activities, and social events. A court-ordered evaluator found it would be in the best interests of the granddaughter to permit the grandparents visitation. The court found that “the continuance of a preexisting relationship with grandparents can provide a stable and dependable nurturing the grandchild can continue to count on in the midst of a rift in the parental relationship.”
Grandparents have a statutory right to request visitation with their grandchildren. In
California, three statutes apply:
1. Family Code section 3102 provides visitation by a deceased parent’s children, siblings, parents, and grandparents if such visitation would be in the best interests of the child;
2. Family Code section 3103 permits a court in specified proceedings involving the custody of a child to grant grandparent visitation; and
3. Family Code section 3104 permits grandparents to petition for visitation if the grandchild’s parents are not married or if certain other conditions are met.
In the above reported case, the Court of Appeal considered Family Code section 3104. Even though there is a presumption not to allow visitation if the parents of the child object to grandparent visitation, it is not absolute and the Court can order visitation especially when the parents had fostered and encouraged the close bond between the grandparents and the grandchild and it was in the best interests of the grandchild to permit visitation.
How much visitation did the court grant the grandparents? The court awarded the grandparents a weekday overnight visit once a week and one overnight weekend visit per month. They can take their granddaughter on a 7-day vacation each summer and can have an overnight visit with her around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Further, the parents cannot interfere with the grandparents attending their granddaughter’s school, social or athletic activities. The parents must keep the grandparents informed of those activities. The court also awarded $3,000.00 toward attorney fees in sanctions under section 271, and $2,000.00 in counseling expenses under section 3104, all jointly and severally payable by the parents.