Everything You Need to Know About Stepparent Custody Rights in California

In California, custody and visitation rights can be granted to the stepparent of a minor child if the court deems that this would be in the child’s best interests. Here’s everything you need to know about stepparent custody rights in California.

Under California Family Code Section 3101, a stepparent can be granted visitation rights notwithstanding any other provision of law. In this context, “birth parent” is defined as the biological parent to the child and a “stepparent” is the person who is associated with the child through marriage to one of their birth parents.

Protective Orders on Stepparents

If there is a protective order, which can be a restraining order, issued ex parte (temporarily) or after a hearing in court, the court will evaluate whether it is in the best interest of the child for their stepparent’s custody and visitation rights to be denied. Examples of judgments for protective orders are described in Section 6320 as an act of abuse, in Section 6321 which excludes the stepparent from a common or family dwelling, or under Section 6322, which specifies other behavior that the court deems necessary to issue orders under Sections 6320 or 6321.

Stepparent Adoption of a Minor Child

Generally speaking, if the biological parent passes away or any other situation prevents them from being the primary caretaker of their child, custody will go to the non-custodial parent. However, if the stepparent has legally adopted the child, then they can have custody of the child. There can be some situations where the stepparent can petition for custody if their spouse (the biological parent of the child) passed away and they have personally undertaken the primary parenting responsibilities.

Related: Stepparent Adoption Process & Laws in California

A stepparent can begin this adoption process if they are married, or in a registered domestic partnership with one of the child’s biological parents. Additional criteria include whether the stepparent was married or in a domestic partnership with the child’s parent at the time of their birth, and if they are still legally married/in a domestic partnership with the child’s biological parent. If this is the case, then the stepparent would qualify for a stepparent adoption to confirm parentage. This process will not require a social worker to conduct an investigation nor will there need to be a court hearing. If both criteria are not met, then there will be a stepparent/domestic partner adoption case, which will require an interview and investigation and a hearing in court. Additional information on how to complete this stepparent/domestic partner adoption in California can be found here.

Related: Stepparent vs Second Parent Adoption in California

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If you have any more questions about stepparent custody rights in California, contact us. Get your free consultation with one of our experienced Family Law Attorneys today!