Posted by Jeremy Swanson
On April 12, 2016

“Does California Have Stepparent Visitation Rights?”

“Does California Have Stepparent Visitation Rights?”

In the past, the answer to this question has been no. However, under the new Family Code Section 3100 et. seq. rules, there can be a right of stepparent visitation with VERY significant limitations.

First, there must be a showing that the visitation would be in the best interest of the child. Second, the of Troxel v. Granville (2000) 530 U.S. 57, 120 S. Ct 2054, limitations apply, in which the court found that a test that is simply the “best interest” of the child in grandparent situations is inappropriate and infringes on the Due Process rights of the parents. This same test will be applied to step-parents.

The stepparent will be required to rebut the presumption that the birth parent or parents is acting in the best interests of the child by denying them visitation.

Finally, a 2013 case, Chalmers v. Hirschkop (2013) 213 Cal.App.4th 289, 307, 152 Cal.Rptr. 3d 361 stated that stepparent visitation should be only exercised in cases with the most “unusual and extreme” circumstances.

Although it is not clear what would be considered an unusual and extreme circumstance, it would seem to require an extremely strong bond between the stepparent and the child (probably from birth or the child’s earliest memories) and emotional harm to the child to be suddenly cut off from the stepparent. Presumably, having a biological parent out of the picture that the stepparent has “stood in” for would be another factor in favor of the visitation being granted, although again, these cases have not filtered through the appellate system at a high rate and therefore very clear guidance to judges and litigants is significantly lacking.

DISCLAIMER: All legal principles quoted are valid as of the date of writing in the State of California. However, you should NEVER base your actions on a legal article, blog, or internet story, as facts in real life are complicated. You should have your case evaluated by an attorney experienced in the area of law needed for your case. In addition, there are often exceptions and potential changes to results that occur due to facts that you may think are trivial or unimportant. This article should not be taken in any way as legal advice on your specific legal matter.

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