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Steve Fernandez and Mark Karney are Certified Family Law Specialists* with over 50 years of combined experience.

Although many stepparents consider their stepchildren to be their own children, they do not have the same legal rights as biological parents during a marriage or in the event of a divorce. The only way a stepparent has the same legal rights as a biological parent is if a stepparent adopts their stepchildren.

However, it is possible for stepparents to obtain visitation rights upon divorce. The following offers general guidance regarding stepparent visitation rights. For more information about stepparent visitation rights in California and how these laws apply to you, speak to an experienced child custody attorney in Los Angeles.

Stepparent Visitation Rights in California

In California, the court may grant a stepparent reasonable visitation rights with their stepchildren if it determines that visitation would be in the best interests of the children. However, any stepparent visitation rights would be secondary to those of the children’s biological parents.

Stepparent visitation rights could be quite limited. Especially when there are two biological parents able and willing to provide care for the children.

It is up to the stepparent to prove that visitation rights are in the children’s best interests, and lack of visitation would be detrimental to the children’s welfare.

What if the Biological Parents Object to Stepparent Visitation?

The children’s biological parents can object to stepparent visitation. If this happens, the stepparent must prove by clear and convincing evidence that stepparent visitation is in the children’s best interests, and denying stepparent visitation would be detrimental to the children.

When Can Stepparents Gain Legal Rights to Stepchildren?

There are instances where stepparents can gain legal rights to stepchildren. As stated before, the first is through legal adoption. For a stepparent to adopt their stepchildren, the noncustodial biological parent must give up their legal rights to the children.

A stepparent may obtain legal guardianship of their stepchildren. Obtaining legal guardianship is difficult when the biological parents are competent and in their children’s lives. However, neither biological parent must forfeit their rights to their children.

When biological parents are deceased or unfit to care for their children, a stepparent can act In Loco Parentis or “in place of a parent.” However, it is rare for both biological parents to die or be unable to care for their children.

An Experienced Attorney Can Help

As a stepparent, it is your responsibility to prove that stepparent visitation rights are in the best interests of your stepchildren. This can be an enormous legal undertaking, especially if there is an objection by a biological parent.

You need strong evidence and an experienced Los Angeles family law attorney to argue your best possible case for stepparent visitation rights. The attorneys at Fernandez & Karney are established, knowledgeable, skilled and ready to represent you.

Contact Fernandez & Karney today to schedule your confidential consultation. We can answer any questions you have about divorce and child custody litigation including your legal rights as a stepparent.