Ventura Stepchild Custody Attorney

Living with your new spouse and their child can put you in a legal grey area.  While that child might be living in your household – and potentially living alongside your children in a blended family – you may not have the legal rights to make decisions in that stepchild’s life.  Your stepchild’s parents may still share custody of the child, which makes it more difficult for you to settle in as the child’s parent, potentially leading to legal difficulties with their birth parent. If you need help seeking child custody rights over your stepchildren, call the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today.  Our Ventura stepchild custody attorneys can help you seek custody rights over a stepchild and resolve legal disputes surrounding parental rights.  Call our law offices today at (805) 643-5555 to schedule a free legal consultation.  If you are seeking information on adopting a stepchild instead, see our Ventura stepchild adoption page.

Custody vs. Adoption for a Stepchild in California

Custody and adoption have significant differences in rights and responsibilities.  Many stepparents seek to adopt their spouse’s children, but it is important to understand whether adoption or custody is right for your family. Custody is a bundle of parental rights including the right to make decisions on behalf of your child.  There are two types of custody: physical and legal.  Physical custody is the right to make day-to-day decisions and have the child live in your house, whereas legal custody is the right to make broader, overarching decisions about your child’s religion, healthcare, education, and so on.  Parents typically have custody of their children, but stepparents, grandparents, and other legal guardians may also get custody. Adoption, on the other hand, replaces one or both of the child’s parents.  The typical scenario that most people think of regarding adoption is when parents who are unable or unwilling to raise a child put the child up for adoption, and the adoptive parents become the legal parents in place of the birth parents.  With stepchild adoption, you still legally replace one parent.  This makes you the legal parent in place of the child’s other parent so that you and your spouse are listed as the child’s official legal parents. In cases where the child still has a good relationship with their other birth parent, you may not want to interfere with that bond by adopting the child.  Instead, you may need to seek custody rights so that you have the power to make legal decisions for your stepchild, such as having the power to sign medical permission forms or the authority to choose what school your stepchild attends. If you seek custody, you and your spouse may still share custody with he child’s other birth parent, or the birth parent may be limited to visitation rights to continue to be a part of the child’s life.

Benefits of Custody for a Stepchild/Stepparent Relationship

If you are a stepparent but have no custody rights, you are practically a legal stranger to the stepchild.  Even if you live in the same household, and even if your stepchild plays and lives alongside your natural children, you would have legal rights similar to a babysitter or nanny rather than the rights of a parent.  This can lead to some absurd situations that could be solved by seeking custody of the child. A stepparent essentially has the rights that a parent gives them, the same as a babysitter would.  You may be able to tell your stepchild to clear their plate after dinner or decide what time to go to bed, but other people may not recognize your parental rights or responsibilities.  Your child’s church, school, and doctor may not be able to recognize your authority, which may make it difficult to co-parent and could mean your spouse will need to take the child to doctor’s appointments or sign-off on other important healthcare, educational, or religious decisions. The child’s other birth parent, whether or not they are heavily involved in the child’s day-to-day life, may still have the legal right to make decisions, and you must abide by their wishes.  This means that, for instance, if your stepchild’s other parent insists the child be raised under a different religion than your own, you do not have the right to choose the child’s religion for them and must abide by the parent’s wishes. If you seek custody, the court may appoint you as an equal partner in raising the child.  This can help you work with your spouse and the child’s other birth parent to act toward the child’s best interests.  If your child is close with their birth parent, by seeking custody instead of adoption, you can allow that legal relationship to continue to flourish. If you seek custody alone without adopting your stepchild, you may lose visitation and custody rights upon the death of your spouse.  Stepparents and stepchildren often bond very quickly, and the death of a parent can be painful for everyone involved.  If you lose your spouse without adopting their children, you may lose the right to have them live in your house or to visit them.  However, even without adopting them, the court may still order reasonable visitation rights, especially if your marriage to the child’s parent lasted for a long period.  The same is true after a divorce rather than the death of a spouse.

Call for a Free Consultation with Our Ventura Stepchild Custody Lawyers

If you are considering seeking custody rights over your stepchild or you are a parent who wants your spouse to have stronger legal rights to raise your child with you, contact the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today.  Our Ventura stepchild custody attorneys represent parents and stepparents in custody cases throughout the Ventura area.  For a free legal consultation, call our law offices today at (805) 643-5555.

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