E and Y are the paternal great grandparents of S and D. F is the F of S
and D and also the grandson of E and Y. M is the mother of S and D and
the former wife of F.
Sadly, the marriage of M and D was not successful, and M and their children
moved in with F’s grandparents (E and Y). She and the children stayed
with E and Y from 2009 until 2013. She finally filed for divorce from
M in 2013. After, she and the children moved out, E and Y would come to
Shortly after filing for divorce, M went back into court and got a restraining
order against F. She later obtained full custody of the children with
no visitation rights for F. At the same time, E and Y’s visits with
their great-grandchildren ended.
In 2015, E and Y went into court and requested great-grandparent visitation
rights under California’s Family Code Sections 3100, 3101, 3102
and 3104. Because they had a long-standing relationship with their great-grandchildren
– in fact, they help raised the children for four years! –
they should be entitled to maintain that relationship. E and Y told the
court that they had attempted many times to contact M to see the children,
but she did not respond to their requests. M argued that she would not
let the children stay with their great-grandparents because F was living
with them and the children were scared to death of their father (plus
there was a restraining order in place). She further argued that she was
not preventing E and Y from seeing the children, but they’d only
contacted her once in two years to do so. She also argued that the family
code sections E and Y cited only referred to grandparents – not
great grandparents, and they were not entitled to help under the law.
The trial court agreed with M, stating the Family Code did not recognize
great-grandparent rights. E and Y appealed.
The Appellate Court agreed with the trial court:
“…We presume the Legislature meant what it said, and the plain
meaning . . . governs… Thus, when a statute is clear and unambiguous,
we may not insert or delete words to accomplish a purpose that does not
appear on its face or from its legislative history." In other words,
if the legislature, when writing the laws, wanted to include great-grandparents
in allowing visitation rights, it would have done so.