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Do Stepparents Have Custody Rights In Divorce?

Do stepparents who have been a positive and lasting influence on their stepchildren’s lives and helped to raise them have any custody rights in the event of a divorce?

In California, Family Code Section 3100-3105 allows for a Family Court judge to grant “reasonable visitation” to a stepparent when they divorce the child’s biological parent.

When is “reasonable visitation” granted to stepparents in California?

Pursuant to California Family Code Section 3100-3105, the family court may grant reasonable visitation to a stepparent if visitation by the stepparent is determined to be in the best interest of the minor child. Visitation rights granted to a stepparent cannot conflict with the legal rights of custody or visitation of a birth parent (whether they are a party to the divorce proceeding or not).

How is the “best interest of the child” determined?

While there is no black and white set of “right and wrong” answers in determining what is in the best interest of a minor child, the Family Court will weigh all factors in the child’s life and look at what will provide the minor child the most consistency and stability in their life. The Court will also take into account any established patterns of care and emotional bonds which have been formed between a child and their stepparent. The Court may also hear from minor children as to what their wishes for visitation with a stepparent are. The Court must allow children age 14 or older to address the court and children less than age 14 may also be permitted to express to the court their desire for continued involvement by their stepparent in their life.

If you are a stepparent and have played a positive, lasting and impactful role in your stepchild’s life, contact with that child does not necessarily have to end upon your divorce from the child’s biological parent. For more than 40 years, Attorney Steven M. Bishop has been assisting San Diego area stepparents to remain a part of their stepchildren’s lives by leveraging their rights under California’s Family Code. Call us today to learn more about how we can help you and provide you the expert legal representation you need.

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