There are many circumstances when a non-biological father may ask the family court to have parental rights to a child. In some cases, a stepfather or long-term partner may have a strong emotional bond with their partner’s child. In other cases, a man may think that he is the biological father of his partner’s child, only to later discover that another man has paternity rights to the child.

Fortunately in these situations, many states are increasingly granting non-biological fathers parental rights. Parental rights typically include the legal right to make decisions on behalf of a child and to care for a child.

How Can the Non-Biological Father be the Legal Parent?

A non-biological father may be considered to have parental rights if he can show the court that he should be considered the child’s legal parent. A legal parent is a parental role that gives a non-biological father all of the same parental rights as a biological parent. A non-biological father may be considered a legal parent if:

  • They officially adopted the child;
  • They voluntarily assumed the role of being the child’s father;
  • The child was born during their marriage to the mother; or
  • They signed the child’s birth certificate.

If the court determines that a non-biological father should be a child’s legal parent, custody and child support may be awarded by the court. The amount of custody and child support a legal parent may be awarded is based on a series of factors that focuses on the child’s best interests.

Can a Biological Father Terminate a Non-Biological Father’s Parental Rights?

Terminating parental rights is difficult. If a biological father wants to terminate a non-biological father’s parental rights they may file a paternity claim with the family court. If the man is determined to be the child’s biological father, he may argue that he should also be the child’s legal father. If another man has claimed paternity of your child, you may want to contact a family law attorney.

Can a Non-Biological Father Be a De Facto Parent?

Yes. Some states, including California, recognize that a child can have more than two legal parents. A de facto parent parent is a role assigned by the family court. Under certain circumstances, a non-biological father may be able to argue that they are a de facto parent. A de facto parent is typically assigned by the court when a biological parent is no longer able to care for the child. De facto parents must show that they consistently:

  • Accepted parental responsibilities;
  • Lived with the child;
  • Have an emotional bond with the child; and
  • The biological parent encouraged your parent-child relationship.

Typically, the role of a de facto parent is awarded to a child’s grandparents, a stepparent, or a family relative. De facto parents may have some parental rights but these rights vary by state.

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

In states that grant parental rights to non-biological fathers, you must show that your relationship with the child is similar to the relationship that a biological parent would have with the child. The court may consider factors such as the length of your relationship with the child and the strength of the emotional bond between you and the child. A lawyer can help you present a your case for parental rights. (However, not all states recognize parental rights for non-biological parents.)

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

Even if you are not granted parental rights, you may be eligible for visitation rights. All visitation decisions are made by the court and 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:

  • The age of the child;
  • The emotional, developmental, and physical needs of the child;
  • The child’s need for stability with schooling, social activities, and living situation;
  • The strength of your parent-child relationship;
  • Your living situation and ability to meet the child’s needs;
  • Your age, physical, and mental health;
  • Any evidence of abuse or domestic violence; and
  • The child’s wishes (if the child is old enough).

A parent’s gender is not a factor considered by the court when determining the child’s best interests.

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

Child custody and parental rights claims can be emotional and complicated. While it may be possible to get custody or parental rights to your partner’s child on your own, there are many complicated steps and court hearings involved. For the best chance at being successful in your case, it is in your best interest to consider hiring a child custody attorney to help ensure the success of your case.