As part of your divorce proceeding, you will need to discuss the custody and visitation rights you have to your own children. But what if you want visitation rights of your spouse’s children from a previous marriage? California state law establishes visitation rights for step parents under certain circumstances.
Your Legal Rights as a Step Parent
When you marry an individual who has children from a previous marriage or relationship, you may easily assume some of the responsibilities and care for their children as if they were your own. You may cook for them, take them to school, spend time with them and overall enjoy being a family together. However, you are assuming these responsibilities not as their parent, but because you are married to their biological parent.
Unfortunately, as step parents, you do not have legal rights to your stepchildren, even if you love and care for them as your own. This means that if you and your spouse file for divorce, you cannot lay claim to them during your divorce. You cannot make legal or medical decisions for any of your former spouse’s children, even if it is in their best interests. In order to have legal rights and claim some sort of custody to your stepchildren after a divorce, you need to legally adopt the children as your own.
Visitation Rights as a Step Parent
However, just because you do not have automatic legal rights as a step parent, it does not mean that you cannot receive visitation rights after divorce. Under California law, the court may grant you reasonable visitation rights if it determines that your involvement in your stepchildren’s lives are in their best interests.
In making visitation decisions, the court will favor the rights of a biological parent first. This means that if both biological parents of your stepchildren are able and willing to provide care to the children, it can create some obstacles for you to obtain visitation rights. You would also have the burden of proving that your lack of presence in your stepchildren’s lives post divorce would lead to detrimental consequences.
You Need Legal Help for a Step Parent Visitation Case
In order to successfully to prove your burden that your visitation rights are in the best interests of your stepchild, it is best to hire a Central Valley family law attorney who has knowledge and access to resources to craft a strong case. An experienced attorney can do the necessary investigations, guide you through the family court process and help you meet the definition of being in the best interests of your stepchildren.
Call an Experienced Central Valley Divorce Attorney
If you are involved in a divorce proceeding, planning to file for divorce, or are dealing specifically dealing with child custody issues, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced family law attorney to help you learn your legal rights and options with respect to the division of your assets.
For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with Central Valley family law attorney Gurjit Srai, please call (209) 323-5558 or (559) 449-1447, or complete our online form.