Non-Biological Father Parental Rights

Authored by , LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

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A man who is not a child's biological or adoptive father may still have custody rights in certain circumstances.  A common scenario is when a man believes the child is his own and acts like the child's father around others.  If the man is later learned not to be the biological father of the child, he may still retain custody rights after separation from the mother.   

When Can a Man Who is Not the Biological or Adoptive Father of a Child Have Parental Rights?

There is a strong presumption that a child's welfare is best served by being in the custody of a natural parent. As a result, non-parents have an uphill battle, and a number of cases end with natural parents winning custody. However, as a matter of public policy, a man who is the non-parental father of a child who has developed emotional parental feelings toward a child may be able to assert the rights as a biological or adoptive parent.

What Does the Court Take into Consideration in Granting Parental Rights?

A court's decision in granting child custody right is always based on the best interests of the child regardless of whether the parties seeking custody are the biological or non-biological parents.  Factors the Court considers in making their decision include:

Child's Age

The child's age is often an important consideration that courts use in determining parental rights. A very young child may be considered unable to form a meaningful parental relationship while an older child's interest may best be served to protect a developed successful parent-child relationship. 

Mother's Support

The mother's support in deciding to grant parental rights to a non-biological or non-adoptive father will have significant weight in court. Public Policy has an inclination to protect a marital union, and so, the court may use its power to grant rights to support a current relationship. 

The Relationship between Child and Man

The court will take into account the depth of the relationship between the child and the man. It will take into consideration whether the parent-child relationship has become well developed and successful.  If the man’s name is on the child’s birth certificate as the father, then this would strengthen a case for child custody.

The Presence or Absence of the Biological Father

If the biological father is missing, passed away, or has terminated his parental rights, then the non-biological parent may have some custody claim to the child if the relationship between the child and non-biological parent is strong. 

What Other Rights Do Non-Biological Parents Have Other than Child Custody?

If a non-biological father has acted like a father (like paying for child support), than he could petition the court for visitation rights.

Should I Seek an Attorney to Assist with a Child Custody Case?

Child custody is often a complex and emotional process. A family attorney will help you in addressing the important issues that the court will evaluate in order to determine custody.

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Last Modified: 04-12-2012 12:17 PM PDT

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