This part of the guide has legal information for the parents of pregnant and parenting minors. You may not be a grandparent yet, but if your child is under 18 and is pregnant or has a child, this section explains things you may want to know, including
• your child’s rights and duties as a parent,
• your duties to your child, and
• your rights and duties to your grandchild.
We hope this guide answers your questions and makes it easier for you to help your child.
If you are the pregnant or parenting minor, read this section and ask your parent(s) or guardian to read it, too!
It explains your parents’ rights, your rights, and what they can do to help you.
How can this guide help my child?
This guide can help your child understand her rights. It answers questions your child may have. And it tells your child about
- child custody and support,
- health care,
- the father’s rights,
- parents’ duties,
- domestic violence,
- child abuse,
- public benefits, and
- staying in school.
If my daughter is pregnant, do I still have to take care of her?
Yes. Until your child turns 18, gets married, or is emancipated, you must still
- support her, and
- give her a place to live.
Your child still must follow your reasonable rules.
Can I tell her what to do about the pregnancy?
No. Only your daughter has the right to make decisions about her pregnancy. Your daughter may need and appreciate your support and advice.
But only she gets to decide to
- have an abortion,
- place the baby for adoption, or
- raise the baby herself or with the baby’s father.
To learn more about the father’s rights and duties, see The Father.
Do I have to support my grandchild?
No. Only your grandchild’s parents must support the child. But you must support your child and give her a safe place to live. You can decide whether she lives in your home or some other safe place that you arrange.
Do I have the right to visit my grandchild?
It depends. Courts usually leave that up to your grandchild’s parents.
It is a good idea to talk with your grandchild’s parents about this, and hope that they will let you visit. If they do not want you to see your grandchild, it is possible, but not likely, that a court will say you can visit.
Can the court help me visit my grandchild?
Maybe. Courts sometimes order grandparent visitation.
But the court will not order grandparent visitation if your grandchild’s parents
- are married,
- live together with the child, and
- do not want you to visit.
The court may order visitation if
- your grandchild is in foster care,
- you have a relationship with your grandchild, and his/her parents are not married or living together,
- your grandchild’s parents are divorcing or fighting for custody of the child, or
- your daughter/son—the child’s parent—is dead.
Note: Even if your situation fits one of these descriptions, the court may decide not to order visitation, especially if the child’s parents are against it. The court will base its decision on what the judge believes is best for the child.
Can my child really keep me from seeing my grandchild?
Yes. The law assumes that the parent is doing what is best for the child. Unless a court decides that the parent is not able to care for the child (is an unfit parent), s/he has the right to make decisions for the child.
How do I ask for a visitation order?
Before you ask for a visitation order, you should try to make an agreement with your grandchild’s parents. You may be able to get a mediator to help create an agreement that works for all of you. The mediator may write a report for the court about your meeting. You will have to go to a court hearing to finalize your agreement.
You may be able to get help from your court’s Family Law Facilitator (FLF). You can find the FLF for your county at this website: www.courts.ca.gov.
Where can I learn more about visitation?
What if my child wants me to be the primary caregiver of my grandchild?
If your grandchild’s parents want you to become the child’s primary caregiver, you can do this on your own. Make an informal agreement with the parents. The parents can take their child back when they want.
Do I have the right to custody of my grandchild?
In most cases, no. Only the parents—no matter how young they are—have the right to custody of their children.
If a court decides the parent cannot care for the child, a grandparent may be given custody, especially if s/he has been taking care of the child. But even when parents cannot care for a child, grandparents do not have an automatic right to custody of their grandchild.
How can I ask for custody of my grandchild?
You may be able to get custody of your grandchild if
- Child Protective Services (CPS) has taken the child away from the parents and placed him/her with you,
- you or someone else asks the court to make you the child’s legal guardian, or
- the child’s parents want you to have custody.
I want custody of my grandchild. Can I get it?
The court will not give you custody unless the child’s parents agree or are unfit, or you are your grandchild’s legal guardian.
What if my grandchild’s parents want me to have custody of the child?
If your grandchild’s parents want you to have custody, ask the court to make you your grandchild’s legal guardian.
What does “legal guardian” mean?
If you become your grandchild’s legal guardian, you will have legal custody of the child, and all the duties of a parent. But your grandchild’s parents must still support the child. And they still have rights as parents.
How do I become the guardian?
Go to Probate Court in the county where you live. You will have to do the following:
- file forms in court,
- notify the child’s relatives, and
- go to a court hearing.
If the court thinks it is best for the child, you will be named guardian.
How does the court decide what is best for a child?
The court looks at
- the other parent’s situation,
- who has been caring for the child,
- your background, including any criminal record,
- whether you have been involved in any CPS cases, and
- who you live with and whether they have criminal records, drug problems, or mental illness.
What if I am my grandchild’s guardian and the parents want the child back?
If you are the legal guardian, the child’s parents cannot make you give their child back to them. To do that, they must ask the court to end your guardianship.
If I am my grandchild’s guardian, can I get government aid?
Maybe. You may qualify for certain programs, including
- Kinship care,
- Medi‑Cal, and/or
- food stamps.
Does getting aid for my grandchild depend on my income?
I am my grandson’s primary caretaker. Can I get aid?
You may qualify. Contact one of these organizations for help.
Who can help me become my grandchild’s guardian?
These organizations can work with you:
- Grandparents as Parents (GAP)—Los Angeles:
- Public Counsel—Los Angeles:
- Grandparent Advocacy Network of Northern California:
- Grandparents Parenting…Again—Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Lake, and Mendocino Counties:
- Kincare Program—Riverside County:
- Kinship Care Resource Center—Santa Clara County: