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After a divorce, do grandparents have a right to holiday visits?

When the parents live apart, sharing the time with the kids over the holidays can be among the most contentious co-parenting disputes. The holiday season is meant to be a time of celebration and time spent with family, but post-divorce conflicts can turn it into something far less joyful — and not just for the immediate family. Grandparents and other beloved relatives have to deal with it as well, unfortunately.

Holiday visits with grandparents can take substantial advance planning for divorced parents, particularly if they aren’t on good terms or their parenting agreement isn’t clear. In other cases, for a variety of reasons, one or even both of the parents may actively oppose grandparents’ visits. Your son or daughter’s ex might be hostile and insist you not be allowed around the kids. Your own child may agree simply to avoid conflict, or he or she may have reservations, as well.

If you’re a grandparent in California being denied time with your grandchildren, does family law give you any rights?

It depends. Grandparents don’t have automatic rights to grandchild visitation, but California law does allow grandparents to seek court orders for reasonable visitation with grandchildren under certain circumstances.

Basically, parents have the right to oppose your visitation, just as they have the right to make other decisions regarding their children. If the parents are married and living together, it’s unlikely a California family court will overrule their opposition to your spending time with your grandchildren. After divorce or certain other kinds of separation, you can seek a court order.

Ideally, personal conflicts can be resolved through mediation or counseling. Also, the holidays can be an emotional time for co-parents, so you might want to choose another time of year to bring it up.

The court may require mediation before you file for a court order. If you can’t resolve the issue without a family court’s intervention, however, what you will need to demonstrate to the judge is that there is a bond between you and your grandchildren and it’s in their best interest to continue it.

If you’re interested in seeking a court order for visitation, an attorney isn’t technically required but is strongly recommended — particularly if you expect opposition. As with any parenting plan, a grandparent visitation order needs to be carefully and thoughtfully drafted to support the best interest of the children.