You know your basic rights as a parent, but what are your visitation rights when it comes to stepchildren? Learn how to navigate through the issue, as well as how to gain access to your stepchildren.
The Law of Visitation Rights
California family law allows a court to grant visitation to a stepparent under the provisions of Family Code sections 3100 and 3101. Pursuant to section 3100(a), the court has the discretion to give custody rights to anyone who is determined to have an interest in the welfare of a child:
(a) In making an order pursuant to Chapter 4 (commencing with Section 3080), the court shall grant reasonable visitation rights to a parent when it is shown that the visitation would be in the best interest of the child, as defined in Section 3011, and consistent with Section 3020. In the discretion of the court, reasonable visitation rights may be granted to any other person having an interest in the welfare of the child.
More specifically, Family Code section 3101(a) states that a stepparent may be granted visitation rights, again using the best interest of the child as a deciding factor. If, however, there is a restraining order against the stepparent (presumably protecting the child’s biological parent), the court must consider this in determining whether to deny visitation. Family Code section 3101(b).
To decide what is in a child’s best interest, the court must consider many issues, chief among them how strong a bond exists between the stepparent and the child and whether disrupting that bond would endanger the child’s welfare.
Determining Visitation Rights for Stepchildren
In order to get a stepparent visitation case before the court, you must file a petition seeking visitation rights or you will need to join an existing custody and visitation case that has been filed by the biological parent(s). If both biological parents are involved in the life of the child, keep in mind it may not be all that easy to gain stepparent visitation.
Focus on the bond you have with your stepchild and establish how long-standing this bond is, as well as how you are involved in every aspect of the child’s life. Don’t hesitate to make moves to obtain visitation rights; if you split up with the biological parent, the longer you don’t see the child the more tenuous and distant your bond will seem to be and this could keep you from getting court-ordered visitation.
In San Diego, the process of seeking visitation rights is covered by Local Rules of Court under Chapter 11, Rule 5.11.1. Hiring an experienced attorney who is well-versed in these rules will help you navigate through this path correctly and in a timely manner.
The process is complicated but given the right facts and some patience and persistence on your part, you could find yourself with a court order for stepparent visitation rights and remain involved in the life of your child.
If you have any further questions, contact us at JWB Family Law. We’d be happy to assist you.