Changing the Scope of Grandparents' Rights


Pasadena family law attorneys watched a recent grandparents' rights case in North Dakota with great interest. Traditionally, grandparents' rights cases have involved cases in which death or divorce is involved. However, a couple in Grand Forks, North Dakota recently won a case granting them court ordered visitation time with their grandchildren over the objection of both parents.

Robert and Diane Bjerke allege that their son Cory Bjerke was angry because he believed they had turned him in for a drug offense. They had been refused visitation with their grandchildren since 2011.

The judge's ruling in the Bjerke case is unique because it appears to give the oldest grandchild, a 16-year-old girl, authority to decide when the visits will occur. The girl lived with her grandparents for a year and a half while her father served time for a drug conviction. She is allowed to exercise visitation rights when she sees fit, even if her parents object. The two younger children are covered by a set schedule that includes visits on holidays, birthdays, and summer breaks.

In California, grandparents are allowed to file for visitation rights if one parent is deceased, if the parents are unmarried, the child has been adopted by a stepparent, the parent's whereabouts are unknown for more than a month, or the child is not currently living with either parent. The court looks at the preexisting relationship between the grandchild and grandparents, as well as the right of the parents to raise their child as they see fit, when determining if visitation will be granted.

Grandparents who wish to go to court to seek visitation with their grandchildren face a series of difficult decisions. Legal battles have both a financial and emotional cost, so most experts recommend trying to work out disagreements through counseling or mediation. However, if grandparents are unable to resolve the issue on their own, the Bjerke case provides hope that their legal rights are starting to be recognized on a broader level.

How Can We Help?

If you have questions about grandparents' rights in the state of California, please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at to speak to one of our Pasadena family law lawyers.