There are many circumstances when a non-biological father has a strong emotional bond to a child. For example, many stepparents, same sex partners, and long-term boyfriends are devoted to their partner’s children. Other times, a man may believe that child is his biological child, only to discover later that he is not the biological father. Fortunately, states are increasingly granting non-biological fathers parental or visitation rights.
Under certain circumstances, a non-biological father is considered a legal parent. Legal parents have all the parental rights of a biological father or mother. You may be a legal parent if:
If you are the child’s legal parent, custody and child support is awarded based on a series of factors (focusing on the child’s best interests).
Things are more complicated if you are neither a biological father nor a legal parent of the child. Some states do not award non-biological parents any rights—even if they have been highly involved in the child’s life. In other states, you may have custody rights under certain circumstances.
If you need help understanding your state’s rules, contact an experienced family law attorney. Do not assume that you cannot win custody or visitation rights without the opinion of a knowledgeable lawyer.
A biological father can file a paternity claim, asserting that he is the child’s legal father. The court may determine that based on DNA evidence, the biological father is the child’s legal parent. If another man has claimed paternity of your child, you may want to contact an experienced family law attorney.
Some states, including California, recognize that a child can have more than two legal parents. You also may be able to argue that you are a de facto parent under certain circumstances. De facto parents must show that they consistently:
De facto parents may have some parental rights. Again, state law varies dramatically. If you need help understanding your state’s rules, contact a family law attorney.
In states that grant parental rights to non-biological fathers or mothers, you must show that your relationship with the child mimics a parent-child relationship. The court may consider factors such as the length of your relationship and the strength of the emotional bond. A lawyer can help you present a compelling case for parental rights. (However, not all states recognize parental rights for non-biological parents.)
Even if you cannot receive full parental rights, you may be eligible for visitation. All visitation decisions are based on the best interests of the child. The courts consider a series of factors when determining a child’s best interest. These factors typically include:
Importantly, a parent’s gender is not considered as a factor when determining the child’s best interests.
Child custody claims are emotionally fraught and complicated—especially when you are a non-biological parent. Since so much is at stake, you should seriously consider hiring an experienced child custody attorney. A lawyer can ensure that you present the best possible claim to the judge at your custody hearing.
Last Modified: 05-22-2017 12:26 AM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
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