Overview of Stepparent Rights
Modern families are different because it is common for divorcees to remarry and combine their two families. Usually, step and biological parents will share the responsibilities while raising kids. However, step and biological parents have different rights, under California law.
Unless a stepparent adopts the children legally or if the stepparent has right to custody, stepparents have limited rights. Usually, biological parents retain legal custody and rights of their children. Although stepparents can be involved in the decision processes, according to California law, biological parents have the last word.
Visitation after divorce
In the best interest of the children involved in the divorce, courts in California can somewill grant the stepparent visitation rights. However, the right to visitation can never conflict the right to visitation or custody given to the biological parent.
Courts believe that if too many people have visitation rights, it can negatively impact children. However, if there are no biological parents who have visitation rights or joint custody, a step parent who has strong relationships with the children can prove that visitation is best for them.
Custody after divorce
Under some circumstances, the step parent can obtain custody of the children after a divorce. If the step parent legally adopts the child/children, then the step parent will retain the right to physical and legal custody of the child/children. The step parent will have this right even if he/she isn’t with the biological parent.
However, if the biological parent emotionally and physically abuses their children or if the biological parent consumes alcohol and drugs, and the other biological parent is unavailable, the step parent may gain custody.
If the biological parents are unable to look after their children after the court took away their parental rights or because they passed away, the step parent can apply for legal guardianship, under California law.
The court will ultimately determine what type of custody and visitation agreement works in favor of the children, not the biological or step parents. However, step parents can make arrangements with biological parents, if they want to remain involved in the lives of their step children.
Getting divorced in California can be complicated. Download our free eBook, 18 Important Things to Know About California Divorce to educate yourself on the process.
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