California Court Discusses Third-Party Visitation Rights

In any family law case in which the custody of a child is at issue, the court’s foremost concern is to develop an arrangement that is in the best interest of the child. While typically custody will be divided between a child’s biological or legal parents, in some cases the court will find that it is beneficial for a child to grant a third-party custody rights. In a recent case ruled on by the Court of Appeals for the Sixth District of California, in which the ex-boyfriend of a child’s mother sought visitation, the court discussed when it is appropriate to grant a third-party custody rights. If you are involved in a custody dispute with your child’s co-parent or any other party, it is critical to retain a seasoned California child custody attorney to fight to help you maintain your custody rights and seek an arrangement that is in your child’s best interest.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that in July 2017, mother was arrested for driving under the influence and her two minor children were taken into protective custody. The plaintiff lived with the mother and both children from October 2016 through March 2017 and was the father of the younger of the two children. The plaintiff indicated during a dependency hearing that he wished to be designated as the presumed parent of the older child. At a subsequent hearing, the court found that both mother and the plaintiff had behavioral and substance abuse issues and named both children to be dependents of the court. The court also granted the plaintiff supervised visits with the younger child and mother supervised visits with both children.

Allegedly, the children were later moved from foster care into the home of their grandmother. The plaintiff subsequently petitioned the court to be recognized as the presumed parent of the older child, which the court denied. The plaintiff then requested visitation with the older child. Mother opposed the petition, arguing the older child was doing fine without seeing the plaintiff and that the sibling bond between the two children did not suffer due to the fact that the plaintiff only had access to one child. The court found that a bond existed between the plaintiff and the older child, and granted the plaintiff visitation rights. The mother appealed.

Court’s Authority to Grant Visitation to a Non-parent

Mother argued, in part, that the court had no jurisdiction to grant custody rights to a non-parent. The court found this argument to be without merit. Specifically, the court stated that the trial court was granted with broad discretion under California law to make any order for the care, custody or support of a child. Further, the court held that simply because the plaintiff did not have a statutorily granted right to visitation with the child did not mean that the court was not permitted to grant him visitation rights. Rather, the court is permitted to order visitation rights with a non-parent if such visitation is in the child’s best interest and will help the child develop into a stable adult. In the subject case, the court found that the evidence in favor of granting the plaintiff visitation rights was sufficient to make the award appropriate. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak with an Experienced Child Custody Attorney

Custody rights are not reserved solely for a child’s legal parents but may be granted to third parties as well if the court finds it will be beneficial for the child. If you are involved in a custody dispute with a third-party or wish to seek custody rights as a third party it is prudent to meet with a capable California child custody attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options. Ethan M. Weisinger is a diligent California child custody attorney who will act as an aggressive advocate on your behalf to help you protect your parental rights.  Mr. Weisinger can be reached via the online form or at (925)258-2020 to set up a confidential conference to discuss your legal needs.

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