A rupture in the health of the immediate family destroys the balance among its members. The complex legal consequences can aggravate the emotional ones. Relocation out of California has accelerated over the past decade has accelerated. A new residence, however, does not automatically sever the ties that bind grandparents to their grandchildren.
Out-of-state does not mean out-of-mind
California law permits grandparents to request a court grant visitation rights, subject to statutory and interpretive restrictions and limitations. Unforeseen and exigent circumstances, however, can compel a family to leave the state. A recent decision by Fourth Appellate District, Division One of the Court of Appeal highlights the relationship between where you reside and whom the law considers your family.
A mother and her son had relocated to Washington after the father died tragically. The child’s grandparents had sought visitation rights prior to their departure. The court wrangled with competing interests as defined by the UCCJEA (Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act). Under the law, jurisdiction lies with the “home state” based on the timing of the first proceeding.
Legal questions remain, however, regarding the fundamental nature of jurisdiction under UCCJEA and to what circumstances it would apply. Ultimately, the court found for the mother on two grounds: First, it determined that she had objected early on to jurisdiction. Second, it distinguished the case of grandparents’ seeking visitation from others that dealt with parental rights.
Legal recourse exists for third parties despite the physical distance
Anxiety accompanies every family separation, regardless of the miles. A border between those miles can alter the legal relationship even further. Close family members deserve a close inspection of the law to determine whether and how to maintain a connection despite life’s tumult. An attorney familiar with the options available may provide legal direction for you.