A surprising scenario is becoming more and more popular as divorce rates in the United States rise. Step-parents are more frequently pushing for visitation rights. While it may seem like they should have no rights, consider the following scenario: A man has a child when he is in his young twenties, and shares joint custody. While that child is young, let's say around two years old, the man meets and marries a woman that is not that child's biological mother. The family still shares joint custody of the child and the step-mother is equally involved in the child's life . When the child is 14, the father and step-mother divorce. The step-mother has spent more than a decade being a parent to this child. So what rights does she have?
Visitation Rights of Step-Parents
The involvement of the step-parent in a child's life will vary depending on the relationship between the family. When there is a tight bond, the removal of the step-parent from the child's life can be just as traumatizing as biological parents divorcing.
In states such as California, the step-parent of a child can petition to the court for visitation rights. While the courts will generally favor the wishes of the biological parents in these instances, there are certain factors that the court will consider when granting visitation.
The following factors will be reviewed by the court:
- Best interest of the child
- Whether that child will be negatively affected if visitation is not granted
- Emotional relationship between the child and step-parent
- Personal involvement of the step-parent in the child's life
- Length of time the step-parent was a parent in the child's life
- Financial relationship between the step-parent and child
The court generally seeks to rule in the best interests of the child. If the biological parents are against the step-parent having visitation rights, yet the step-parent can prove that the child will suffer emotionally or psychologically if visitation is not granted, then a step-parent may be able to overcome this preference.
If you are wondering what rights you may have as a step-parent, call Cutter & Lax today. With over 30 years of experience, our firm can help you protect your rights as a step-parent.