Divorce is complicated enough when both spouses have children together, but what happens when one spouse has children from a previous marriage? You may have a close relationship with your spouse’s children that you want to continue after your marriage ends.
Understanding the rights of step-parents in California can help you determine how to proceed.
When step-parents adopt children
Step-parents may legally adopt their step-children if one biological parent is deceased or relinquishes parental rights. Adoption gives step-parents the same rights as biological parents regarding joint or sole custody during a divorce. In addition, step-parents who legally adopt their spouses’ children also have the same financial, visitation, and other parental obligations as biological parents.
When step-parents do not adopt children
Step-parents who do not legally adopt their step-children do not have custody rights or the authority to make decisions affecting the children’s welfare following a divorce. In addition, they may not expect to receive visitation privileges.
However, step-parents may petition the California court system for visitation rights. For example, in some circumstances, a judge may award visitation to step-parents after considering various factors, including:
- The bond between the step-parent and the child
- The child’s age
- The biological parent’s ability to raise the child
- Evidence of abuse by the natural patent
However, visitation may not interfere with the rights of a child’s suitable biological parents. In addition, the court may consider the reasonable objections of a biological parent.
California judges consider a child’s well-being when awarding custody during a divorce. However, extenuating circumstances, including the wishes of step-parents, can complicate child custody arrangements.