Big Little Lies—Grandparents and Child Custody

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The second season of HBO’s hit show featured a major plot involving Meryl Streep attempting to take custody of her grandchildren from her deceased son’s wife. In the show, Streep’s grandmother character is shown as a serious threat to the mother’s custody. But how realistic is this?

Custody favors biological parents

Like many things on TV, this is a case of realism taking a backseat to drama. The truth is that California courts strongly favor biological parents when it comes to custody battles. While it is possible for grandparents to be awarded custody, it requires extenuating circumstances that make it so that it’s not in the child’s best interest to be raised by their biological parents—something like a serious drug addiction or physical abuse.

The child’s best interests

The golden rule for judges who hear custody cases is always to do what is in the child’s best interest. No amount of scheming on the part of a villainous, Meryl Streepian grandmother can ever supercede this imperative. And, contrary to some belief, modern courts do not place any priority on the parent’s gender when considering custody.

Family law in California

Of course, every TV show is not obligated to accurately represent the letter of the law. However, if you’re dealing with a family law issue in California—whether it involves divorce, child custody, spousal support, adoption, guardianship, or anything else—you’re a lot better off talking to a family lawyer than turning on HBO. At the offices of Ernest A. Casacca, Attorney at Law, we’ve been helping California families for over 25 years with skilled legal guidance and personal attention.

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