These days, a large percentage of the U.S. population is made up of blended
families. It is not uncommon for stepparents to play critical roles in
the lives of stepchildren. Sometimes, stepparents are the ones to raise
their stepchildren. Sometimes, they’re the only mom or dad a child
knows because the biological parent is absent or completely out of the picture.
The brings us to the issue of divorce. When a stepparent
divorces, what rights does he or she have in regards to
child custody and
visitation? It depends on various factors; for example, if a stepparent legally adopted
their stepson or stepdaughter, they would be considered the child’s
legal mother or father; therefore, they would have the
same rights as a biological parent.
On the other hand, if the stepparent never adopted the child (because they
never got around to it or because the biological mother or father wouldn’t
Section 3101 of the Family Code would dictate what happens next. Even if the stepparent
raised the child since he or she was an infant, Sec. 3101 would still
govern the stepparent’s rights.
Section 3101 of the Family Code
Under Section 3101(a) it reads, “Notwithstanding any other provision
of law, the court may grant reasonable visitation to a stepparent, if
visitation by the stepparent is determined to be in the best interests
of the minor child.” In light of that, here are some examples of
where this law could apply:
- A stepmother has been raising her three-year-old stepchild since he was
a month old. As a stay-at-home mom, the child has become very attached to her.
- A stepfather has raised his 16-year-old stepson as his own since the boy
was two-years-old. As a part of the divorce, he’s asking for weekend
visits until his stepson reaches the age of 18.
- A stepmother has spent eight years raising her 12-year-old stepdaughter
and the two are very close. She wishes to ask the court for visitation
so that bond is not destroyed by the divorce.
Co-Parenting Tips for Divorcing Parents
Note: Under Section 3101(c) of the Family Code, it clearly states that a stepparent
may not be awarded visitation rights if it would conflict with the custody
and visitation rights of a birth parent who is not a part of the proceeding.
Contact our firm to schedule a free case evaluation with a San Diego divorce and child
custody attorney. Let us protect your rights.