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Great-Grandparents May Be Great but Not for Child Visitation Rights

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 visit them.

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.