Does a stepparent have any rights to custody of a stepchild?

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Does a stepparent have any rights to custody of a stepchild?

Dad is the biological father of an 8 year old daughter. Biological mother died when child was 1 year old. Present wife, the step-mother, has been involved in the care of the child for the past 5 years or so. All financial responsiblity has been solely on Dad. Dad is a functional alcoholic, works full time, has had no legal or work related issues. Stepmother is completing a drug and alcohol rehab program and has not held a job x 2 years. They are separating and will be divorcing.

Asked on February 28, 2012 under Family Law, California

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The general rule is that if the step parent has not legally adopted the step child there is no right to custody and visitation upon divorce from the biological parent.  Aside from the facts that surround the marriage here, I caution you to make sure that the child is counseled if the step parent  - who is the only mother she probably remembers - is cut off from her upon divorce.  It could raise feelings of abandonment that may never resolve.  And her Dad need to get help here.  All alcoholics function  on some level and none of them are good for a child.  Good luck.


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