Stepparent Visitation Rights in California

California has endeavored, by statute, to realize the suitable of stepparents to have visitation legal rights with their stepchildren. Even so, many latest Court docket decisions, have severely limited the scope of stepparent’s rights, and, the jurisdiction and discretion of demo courts in taking into consideration stepparent visitation requests.

A. Statutory Authority For Stepparent Visitation Legal rights in California:

1. Household Code, Segment 3101 supplies that:

a) A courtroom may perhaps grant affordable “visitation” to a stepparent, if visitation by the stepparent is identified to be in the ideal interests of the minimal youngster
b) That if a domestic violence protective order was issued versus a stepparent, the court docket SHALL consider irrespective of whether that adversely influences the ask for
c) Stepparent visitation rights May perhaps NOT be requested that would conflict with a correct of custody or visitation of a start guardian who is not a celebration.

2. Family members Code, Segment 3176(a) delivers that if a stepparent’s request for visitation with a stepchild is “contested” that the make any difference may be referred to mediation and

3. Loved ones Code, Portion 3185 offers that if mediation does not result in an agreement with regards to the stepparent’s request for visitation with a stepchild, the mediator shall so notify the courtroom, and, the courtroom SHALL set the subject for a very long cause hearing on the unresolved challenges.

B. Appealate Court docket Selections Restricting The Trial Court’s Jurisdiction And Discretion In Stepparent Visitation Requests:

1. The critical component to keep in mind is that California’s statute ONLY addresses a stepparent’s ideal to reasonable “visitation” with a stepchild.

2. The California stepparent visitation statute DOES NOT confer “jurisdiction” to a trial court to award a stepparent “custody” rights to a stepchild in an action brought below the California Spouse and children Regulation Act. This position was built distinct in the scenario of In re the Relationship of Lewis & Goetz(1988) 203 Cal Application 3d 514.

3. Also, equally the U S Supreme Courtroom, and, the California Court docket of Attractiveness, in current decisions, have seriously limited the “discretion” of a trial courtroom in ruling on a stepparent’s ask for for stepparent visitations, where by the normal, birth mother or father and/or dad and mom Object to the ask for. Exclusively:

a) In the scenario of Toxel v. Granville (2000) 530 US 57, the United States Supreme Courtroom, in striking down a Washington statute held:

(1) That the Thanks Course of action Clause of the Structure accords moms and dads a essential ideal to elevate their small children, and, to make choices regarding the care, custody, and regulate of their children

(2) That absent a displaying of unfitness of a kid’s parent, that there is a presumption that in shape dad and mom act in the most effective fascination of their kids, and, when a parent’s conclusion is judically challenged, the demo courtroom Should give the parent’s choice “special pounds” and

(3) That as prolonged as a parent adequately cares for his or her children, the Owing System Clause does not permit a point out to infringe on the basic legal rights of mother and father to make little one rearing choices basically due to the fact a point out judge thinks a “superior determination could be designed” than the conclusion of a in good shape mother or father

b) In the recent California Court docket of Appeal situation of In re the Marriage of W (2003) 114 Cal Application 4th 68, the Court docket:

(1) Cited with acceptance the Toxel v. Granville choice and

(2) Dominated that the demo court docket, who granted a stepfather continued visitations with his stepson, about the objection of the kid’s start moms and dads, UNCONSTITUTIONALLY used Relatives Code, Part 3101 in that case, because the history did not disclose that the trial courtroom gave “exclusive weight” to the parent’s objections, and, there was no demonstrating that the objecting parents were being unfit mothers and fathers.It bears notation that in the Relationship of W situation:

(a) the stepparent had been with the child’s start mother considering the fact that the stepchild was quite youthful

(b) the stepparent experienced, write-up-divorce to the beginning mother, been performing exercises normal visitations with the stepchild, who referred to him as “Father”

(c) the demo court docket had referred the case to a Youngster Custody Evaluator who reported that it was in the stepchild’s “best interests and welfare” to proceed to have visitations with the stepparent.


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