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Child Custody | Family | Guardianship

Can Non-Biological Parents be Granted Custody or Visitation Rights?

7 min read
Philip Ahn, Attorney

by Philip Ahn, Attorney

Yes, non-biological parents can be granted visitation or custody rights. This can occur in several different circumstances. In some cases, a non-biological parent may have acted as the child’s psychological parent—that is, they demonstrated that they had assumed the child’s upbringing duties and responsibilities, even if not legally recognized as the parent. This could include financial child support, parenting time, providing a home for the child, emotional guidance, and involvement in their upbringing. Sometimes, a court may also recognize an individual as a de facto parent if the child’s legal parent consented to their parental role.

Child Custody

Courts will consider the child’s best interest when determining who should be granted primary physical custody. The court may consider the following factors:

  • The child’s age
  • Health
  • Psychological parentage
  • Or emotional needs

Biological Parents In Child Custody Issues

Regarding child custody issues involving a child’s biological parents, the court’s priority is always the child’s best interest. In such cases, the court considers several factors when deciding what is in the child’s best interest, including:

  • The wishes of the child and their parent/s
  • The relationship between the legal parents, taking into account any abuse or violence in the past
  • The mental and physical health of the parents
  • The ability of each parent to provide a stable home life for the child
  • The ability of each parent to provide financial child support, psychological parentage, and physical support for the child
  • Any existing or potential living arrangements available to the parents

Granting custody to a non-parent is difficult for a biological mother or father to make.

If there is a paternity dispute, a DNA test can establish the biological parent of a child.

If the non-biological parent has acted in a parental role for an extended period. In that case, the court may recognize that parent as a legal parent if it will be in the child’s best interests.

Non-Biological Parents Petitioning For Parental Rights

In recent years, the growing trend of parents in same-sex relationships, family friends, or non-biological single parents petitioning for the same parental rights as biological parents has become increasingly popular.

A non-parent seeking custody of a child must demonstrate to the court that they can provide a safe and secure home environment for the child.

If a court makes a decision that one parent has legal authority over a child, the non-biological parent does not automatically acquire parental rights.

If a non-biological parent wishes to establish parental rights over a minor child legally, they can file a petition with the court for legal custody.

If the law recognizes non-biological parents, children will benefit from having two parents. This has been shown to create a better environment for them.

States Laws On Non-Biological Parents

Although the laws vary from state to state, many states have passed legislation granting parental rights to non-biological parents if they can demonstrate that they have been involved in the child’s life and have established a parental relationship.

A Psychological Parent In Custody Matters

Non-biological parents can seek custody rights of a child regardless of biological ties. This is known as “psychological parent” status, wherein the non-biological parents have established a bond with the child-like birth parents.

If the trial court determines the other parent to be a psychological parent, the children may benefit from having two adoptive parents involved. Additionally, a psychological parent may be given visitation rights, which can provide stability and continuity for the children.

Getting The Non-Biological Parent Name On The Child’s Birth Certificate

A non-biological parent can have his name appear on the child’s birth certificate by going to court and obtaining either sole or joint custody of the child. The court will then order and grant parental rights to the non-biological parent. This order can add the non-biological parent’s name to the birth certificate.

Understanding The Child Custody Rights Of Non-Biological Parents

When children are born to parents who are not married, the father does not automatically gain custody rights. The father must establish paternity to gain legal recognition of parentage and custody rights.

The process could include obtaining a certified copy of the birth certificate listing him as the father or filing a petition with the court to establish paternity.

If a court agrees that children should be in the full custody of a non-biological parent, it is essential to understand the implications for both the parents and children.

Exploring The Factors Behind Third-Party Custody Of A Child

When deciding who should receive custody of a child during parental separation or divorce, the court must consider the best interests of the child. This often involves granting child custody to a third-party caregiver, such as a grandparent or other close family member, rather than one of the parents.

Several factors may influence the court’s final ruling to grant third-party child custody in these child support cases, including:

  • The child’s relationship with the third-party caregiver
  • The parent’s financial and living situation
  • Any other aspects that may affect the child’s well-being

Establishing Legal Parenthood For Non-Biological Fathers

In some cases, the non-biological father may wish to legally establish a parent-child relationship with a child that is not biologically his. In to do so, the non-biological father must take specific steps to become a legal parent of the child, including:

  • Obtaining a court order that recognizes the non-biological father as a legal parent of the child
  • Formally adopting the child through court proceedings or through the adoption agency in a state that allows non-biological fathers to adopt their stepchildren formally
  • Becoming a child’s guardian. This is done by filing a petition in court to become a legal guardian and, again, providing evidence of your relationship with the child

Non-biological fathers can seek custody rights for a child that is not their biological offspring. The non-biological fathers must establish themselves as “psychological parents.” This means that the non-biological fathers must prove that they have provided:

  • Emotional
  • Financial
  • Physical support to the children
  • And have an established bond with them
  • Additionally, non-biological fathers must demonstrate that it is in the children’s best interests for them to have visitation or custody rights

The Appellate Court View About Non-Biological Parents’ Custody Rights

According to the appellate court, even if the family law court did not have jurisdiction to decide the custody rights of a non-biological parent, the court still had the authority to consider the child’s best interests when making decisions.

The court found that, in some cases, it was reasonable for a non-biological mother or father to have visitation and custody rights. The court noted that the parent’s relationship with the child should be considered when deciding custody and visitation rights.

The court ruled that non-biological parents may still be awarded custody or visitation rights if they can demonstrate a sustained, meaningful relationship with the child and a commitment to raising them.

Can A Biological Father Terminate The Parental Rights Of A Non-Biological Father?

Yes, a biological father can terminate the parental rights of a non-biological father. This may occur in cases where the non-biological father has not established the child’s legal paternity or where a family court determines that it would be in the best interests of the child to terminate the parental rights of one or both fathers.

What Occurs If You Discover You’re Not The Actual Father In A Child Custody Dispute?

If you discover during a custody dispute that you are not the child’s biological father, a few scenarios may emerge. Depending on the laws of the state where you live and other factors, you may be able to end your parental rights or continue to be involved in the child’s life as a parental figure or stepparent.

If you are determined not to be the child’s legal father, you will not be responsible for providing financial support or medical care. You may, however, still be required to pay child support for any significant period during which you were legally considered the child’s father.

Secure Your Visitation And Custody Rights As A Non-Biological Parent By Getting Legal Counsel

Are you a non-biological parent struggling to secure visitation or custody rights for your child? You may have heard that winning these drawn-out court battles can be difficult without legal help.

Not only does having legal representation significantly increase your chances of success, but typical attorneys can also be expensive and require costly retainers

That’s where unbundled family attorneys come in. The legal fees for an unbundled family law attorney are affordable and can cost between $500 to $1500, whereas a regular lawyer can charge $5000 or higher.

Unbundled legal services can be beneficial when you only need partial assistance from a family law attorney, although they may not be ideal for every case.

Contact a family law attorney for legal advice on visitation and custody rights.

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