Can Step-Parents Get Visitation Rights

Can Step-Parents Get Visitation Rights?

Kristen’s husband died when their two children were very young. Three years later, she married Brendan. Soon, Brendan became close to the children, attended ball games, and helped with homework. When Kristen filed for divorce, Brendan was left wondering if step-parents get visitation rights. Would he be allowed to participate in the kids’ lives even though he was not the children’s biological father?

California Visitation Rights, Generally

When parents divorce, they must prepare a parenting plan and submit it to the court for approval. Their plan describes how to split parenting time. Plans typically set out weekly visitation, as well as a holiday schedule.

Child custody also plays a part in visitation. The judge may award sole physical custody, sole legal custody, joint physical custody, or joint legal custody. Depending on the type of custody, a child might live with a custodial parent and only visit the non-custodial parent.

But custody and visitation are usually decided between biological parents. What happens when a step-parent like Brendan asks for visitation.

Step-Parents Visitation and the Kids

Despite living with the children for years, Brendan is not legally considered to be their father. As such, he is not automatically qualified to be considered for custody or visitation.

However, step-parents may petition the court for visitation rights. In fact, California law states that:

“Children have a fundamental right to maintain healthy, stable relationships with a person who has served in a significant, judicially approved parental role.”

Courts may consider Brendan to have served as a parent, and award visitation rights to him. Generally, courts might grant visitation rights to anyone who has an interest in the child’s welfare.

Reasons to Deny Step-Parent Visitation Rights

California law specifically states that reasonable visitation rights will be granted, “if visitation by the step-parent is determined to be in the best interest of the child.” However, judges tend to deny step-parent visitation rights if they feel such visitation is not in the best interests of the child.

Call to Learn More About Step-Parents and Visitation Rights

If you are a step-parent who is fighting to visit your step-kids, contact us to learn more about your options. We can also help if you have reasons for blocking step-parent visitation with your children.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce, including child custody and visitation. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, San Diego, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.