A Visitation Rights Win for Grandparents

Baby girl R was born to M and B in 2004. Present at the time were M’s parents, J and C. Shortly after R’s birth, J retired from his job and became R’s primary caregiver. At M’s suggestion, J and C also sold their home and moved within three blocks of M and B’s house to be closer to R. J and C would care for R during the day while M and B worked. They would take her and pick her up from pre-school and attend her soccer practices and games.

In 2008, M and B dissolved their marriage; ultimately, M obtained primary custody of R. In 2009, M and R moved in with J and C. J and C continued to care for R. However, with R living with them, J and C became even more involved with her every-day care. They got her ready for school, took her to and from school, and watched her until M came home from work. They would also help her get ready for bed at night.

Sadly, according to C, shortly after M began taking medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), M became rude, angry, incommunicative and argumentative. The relationship between M and J and C soured, and M and R moved out. M also forbade J and C from having any contact with R. At one point demanding that they leave her soccer practice or he would remove R from her team.

Without M’s approval to visit with R, J and C asked R’s mother B if they could visit with R during B’s visitation time. For the next two years, J and C arranged with B to visit with R during part of B’s visitation time including B’s holiday time with R. In 2012, M found out about B’s arrangement with J and C and became very angry. B withdrew her agreement with J and C to stay out of the argument between M and J and C.

In 2013, J and C petitioned the court to allow them to see R contending it was in R’s best interest to continue her close relationship with her grandparents. A mediator was appointed, and after investigating, determined that it would be in R’s best interests to continue the close relationship she had had with J and C her entire life - a total of nine years. The trial court agreed with the grandparents and the mediator and granted J and C grandparent visitation rights of time with R during the week, the occasional sleepover and the right to attend R’s sports and school events.

M appealed.

The Appellate Court agreed with the trial court. According to section 3104 of the California Family Code, the court may grant reasonable visitation rights to the grandparent if the court does finds that there is a preexisting relationship between the grandparent and the grandchild that has engendered a bond such that visitation is in the best interest of the child. Here, J and C had been a major presence in R’s life since the day of her birth, and it was clearly in R’s best interests to continue with that relationship.

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