Stepparent Visitation in California, What You Should Know
In many situations, a stepparent might play a role in raising his or her stepchild, sometimes from a very young age. Stepparents might have provided both financial and emotional support to their stepchildren, and have formed a bond with the children that is not unlike that of any parent and child. In these situations, stepparents who are divorcing the biological parent of their stepchild might wonder what rights they have to continue to see their stepchild or stepchildren. In California, stepparents can seek visitation with their stepchildren. In order to be granted visitation though, several requirements must be met.
The stepparent must have been married to the biological parent
In order to be granted visitation, the stepparent must have been legally married to the biological parent. Individuals who lived with a significant other and that person’s children, but who were not legally married to the biological parent will not qualify as stepparents for the purpose of seeking visitation.
Best interests of the child
In custody decisions, the phrase “best interests of the child” is frequently used. What this means is that the court will be looking at the situation from the perspective of what is best for the child, and not necessarily the parent, or stepparent. If the court believes that the stepparent would benefit from visitation with the child, but the child would not, the child is the one whose interests will be protected.
Factors courts consider when deciding whether to grant visitation
In determining whether a stepparent should have the right to visitation with their stepchild, there are several important factors. The court will want to know certain things regarding the relationship between the stepparent and the child. They might consider how long the stepparent and child lived together, if the stepparent and child formed a bond, if the stepparent supported the child financially, or took on a parenting role for the child, such as taking them to school and other activities. The court will also look at the child’s relationship with his or her biological parents, and whether the biological parents are able to care for the child. The child’s age might also be considered, as well as the child’s health.
In addition to all of this, any history of domestic abuse, whether it was committed by the stepparent or the biological parent, will be considered in determining what the best interests of the child are.
In cases where a stepparent has served as a parental figure, especially in the absence of the biological parents, then the court may use the doctrine of “In Loco Parentis” to support the stepparent’s rights to visitation.
Custody rights of biological parents come first
Even if a stepparent meets all of the other requirements for visitation, if granting visitation to a stepparent would impede on the custody rights of a biological parent who is not a party to the visitation proceeding, then the stepparent’s visitation will be denied. It is often possible for a visitation agreement to be arranged that will not be acceptable to all of the parties involved. Stepparent visitation rights are a complicated issue that requires the careful attention of an experienced family law attorney.
MILLIGAN, BESWICK, LEVINE & KNOX LLP
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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.