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Stepparent Rights in California Divorce

stepparent rightsThough I never adopted the children, now that we are divorcing do I have any stepparent rights? Let us say you have spent a fair amount of time helping to raise the children that your spouse brought to the marriage, but you, for whatever reason, never took steps to adopt those children. Although you have deep attachments to the kids, you and your spouse are ready to call it quits. The biggest thing standing in the way is the kids: Will you ever be able to see them after a divorce if you have no legal claim to them? This, and other questions you may have, can be answered by a knowledgeable, local divorce attorney.

Stepparent Rights – California Code on Visitation

The laws (Family Code 3011) regarding children of divorce are quite clear: The court must make decisions based on the best interests of the kids. That means it is totally possible for a stepparent to have reasonable visitation granted. The key word is possible.

What Could Get in the Way of Court-Ordered Visitation for a Stepparent?

To be clear, determining what is best for a child is no small matter. Your past and present behavior will have a significant impact on a judge’s decision. Some questions that might be considered include:

  • Do you have a history of domestic violence?
  • Do you now, or have you ever had a problem with drugs or alcohol?
  • What was the nature of your role with the children in the past, and how what would you like to see happen in the future?
  • If the children are old enough, what are their wishes with regard to you?
  • Does the children’s biological parent support the idea of visitation rights for the stepparent?
  • Do you have a volatile relationship with your spouse at this time?
  • Are there other issues that might get the attention of the judge in a negative way?
  • Do you have a good reputation in the community, and have people willing to testify to your character, attachment to the children, and fitness as a stepparent?

Benefits to Visitation

In many circumstances, stepparent visitation can be extremely beneficial for children:

  • It can help lessen the strain of a major life change for youngsters;
  • It can validate that children are still loved and are not responsible for the breakup;
  • It can be a logistical help in terms of child pick-ups and drop-offs for school, activities, appointments, etc.;
  • It is a way to demonstrate that when adults disagree they can nonetheless behave in a civil manner.

Exploring the Options

Stepparents need not give up all hope of contact with the children they have loved and cared for over time. Particularly in instances in which the stepparent has been a part of a child’s life from an early age, or for a number of years, the court is likely to recognize the strength of the relationship and the potential benefits to the child when visitation is considered.  Do you live in Sonoma County, Mendocino County or Lake County California? To discuss stepparent rights and all the possibilities, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Beck Family Law P.C., in Santa Rosa today.

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