What Are Grandparent’s Rights in California?

Grandparent's Rights in California Fresno CA Law Office of Rick D. BanksIn many families, grandparents are deeply involved in their grandchildren’s lives. Sometimes, they may even take on the role of parent. However, after a divorce, grandparents may wonder whether they have visitation rights under the law. To learn more about grandparent’s rights in California, speak to a family law attorney at the Law Office of Rick D. Banks today.

When Can Grandparents Request Visitation?

Even without a court order, parents can always allow a grandparent visitation with their children. But what happens if a parent decides to stop allowing these visits? In these cases, the grandparent has a right to petition the court for visitation.

However, if the child’s parents are still married, California law won’t allow grandparents to petition for visitation, unless:

  • Both parents are separated
  • One parent has been missing for a month or longer
  • One parent joins the grandparent’s petition for visitation
  • The child no longer lives with either parent
  • A stepparent adopted the child, or
  • One parent is involuntarily institutionalized or incarcerated.

If a grandparent’s visitation is based on one of the above circumstances, but the circumstances change or cease to exist, the parents can request the court to terminate grandparent visitation. For instance, if the parents decide to move back in together after having been separated, they can ask the court to end the grandparent visitation.

What Does the Court Consider When Granting Grandparent Visitation?

When petitioning for grandparent’s rights in California, grandparents must give a copy of the document to both parents and any other person with physical custody of the child. After submitting the petition, the court will automatically send the case to mediation. During mediation, if the parents and grandparent cannot settle, then the mediator must notify the court. This will result in a hearing before a judge.

It’s important to remember that the court automatically presumes grandparent visitation shouldn’t be granted if both parents agree against it. This means that the burden of proof is always on the grandparent. The grandparent must effectively argue that their visitation will serve in the child’s best interests, or they will not be granted visitation.

The court will consider the following factors when determining if grandparent visitation will serve in the child’s best interests:

  • The child’s well-being, health and safety
  • Any history of abuse by the person seeking visitation or custody
  • Any history of drug or alcohol use
  • The amount of time the person seeking visitation has spent with the child

The court must establish any pre-existing relationship between the grandparent and grandchild. If both share a healthy and significant relationship, then keeping that relationship alive will serve in the child’s best interests. This fact must also be balanced against the parent’s insistence that such a relationship should not exist. For cases with children aged 14 or older, the court may even take the child’s opinion into consideration.

Grandparent’s Rights in California After Adoption

California law states that when a child is adopted by someone outside the family, then all visitation rights for the previous family end. The adoption of a child severs the relationship between child and parent, as well as all the parent’s relatives. However, if the child is adopted by someone else in the family, such as a stepparent or another grandparent, then a grandparent’s right to visitation can still continue.

Can Grandparents Win Custody of Their Grandchild?

California courts can award custody to any person who can provide a good home to a child. However, judges will always try to award custody to a parent first, if that parent is fit for custody. If both parents are not fit enough for custody, then the court will look towards another person in the child’s current residence. That is of course if the current residence is a stable and wholesome environment.

Children with parents who cannot care for them often live with their grandparents. Because of this, many grandparents are awarded legal custody of their grandchildren. Furthermore, if a child does not currently live with their grandparents, and their parents cannot provide a stable environment, then the court will award custody to anyone who can provide a good home. That includes grandparents without current physical custody.

Learn More About Grandparent’s Rights in California

If you have questions about grandparent’s rights in California, speak to an experienced Fresno family law attorney at the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks today.

What Does It Mean to Have 50/50 Custody in California?

5050 Custody  Child Custody Lawyer  Fresno CA  Law Office of Rick BanksCalifornia courts prefer to give both parents custody whenever possible. This type of joint custody, where both parents share an equal amount of parenting time, is commonly known as 50/50 custody. Below, we explain what it means to share 50/50 custody. To learn more, speak to a Fresno child custody attorney at the Law Office of Rick D. Banks.

Is Joint Custody and 50/50 Custody the Same?

To understand how child custody rights work, it’s important to understand the two different types of child custody.

Legal Custody

Legal custody gives parents the ability to make important decisions in their child’s life. These decisions include what religion your child practices, where they go to school, and also gives you control over their healthcare choices.

When parents are given joint legal custody, they will typically share an equal right in making these important decisions. That means that both parents must consult with each other and come to an agreement over difficult decisions. If the parents cannot come to an agreement, then the court will help work out a compromise. If you lose legal custody, then you will no longer have a say in these decisions; however you may still need to pay child support.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to your right to have your child live with you. When people talk about joint custody, they are usually referring to physical custody. If one parent loses physical custody, they may still have visitation rights. Visitation rights allows parents the ability to see their child, but they cannot take the child home for a prolonged time.

Even in joint physical custody cases, one parent often has their child longer than the other parent. The parent with more time is known as a “primary custodial parent,” or just “custodial parent” for short. A parent who solely has physical custody is also referred to as a “custodial parent”.

50/50 Custody Is Ideal in the Eyes of Many Courts

Most courts see 50/50 custody as the ideal form of custody. This is because the court recognizes the importance both parents serve in raising their child. If both parents are capable and willing to parent, then they should both have an equal say in the important decisions concerning their child. However, sometimes factors can get in the way of this expectation.

Unfortunately, pure 50/50 custody is not all that common. Many cases end up with one parent favored over the other. Most often, it is difficult to equally divide the time both parents spend with their child. Work schedules and the school week typically make it easier for one parent to have the kids during the week, and the other parent have the kids on the weekend. Because of this fact, other split forms of custody exist, such as 70/30 or 60/40.

How to Obtain 50/50 Custody in California

As mentioned above, getting 50/50 custody can be difficult. Typically, the court divides custody by the number of overnights, which means both parents must receive 182.5 overnights with their child. That half day alone makes pure 50/50 custody nearly impossible. Things become even more complicated when you factor in holidays and birthdays. These important times of the year will need to be alternated between both parents, which means one parent will inevitably miss out on something.

The closer both parents live to each other, the easier it is to obtain 50/50 custody. This is because it makes it easier for the child to alternate houses every few days. If the custody agreement requires too much switching though, then the child may alternatively switch houses every week or two. Cases with more complicated schedules may require even more complex custody schemes. The court will heavily analyze the logistics of sharing joint custody. For instance, if one parent lives too far from the child’s school, then court may elect for a split custody time instead, such as 60/40.

Speak to a Fresno Child Custody Attorney Today

Disputes in parenting time can be some of the most contentious issues in child custody cases. In order to protect your rights as a parent, and get the parenting time you deserve, seek the legal advice of a family law attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks today.

Termination of Parental Rights in California Due to Child Abandonment

Termination of Parental Rights in California Fresno CAHas your child’s other parent neglected your child through lack of financial support or visitation? Or maybe you’re caring for a child whose parents have failed to exercise their parental rights for the last six months.

If you’re involved in either situation described above, you may be seeking termination of parental rights in California. Whether you wish to end the parental rights of your child’s other parent or the child’s biological parents, the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks can help.

How to Terminate Parental Rights If Your Child Was Abandoned

California law dictates that the court can terminate the parental rights of parents guilty of child abandonment. In order to establish a parent has abandoned their child, you must determine that the parent has:

  1. Failed to proved financial support;
  2. Had very little or no contact with their child for at least one year; and,
  3. Purposefully abandoned their child.

The termination of parental rights in California would deny a parent visitation and prevent them from wielding custodial rights with your child in the future.

Who Can File a Child Abandonment Case?

Children under 18 years of age, and who fit within the description of California Family Code Section 7822, can be declared free from the custody of their legal parents. You may seek termination of parental rights in California due to child abandonment if you are the child’s:

  1. Legal parent;
  2. Grandparent;
  3. Step-parent;
  4. Adult sibling; or,
  5. Any other adult currently caring for a child in the absence of the legal parents.

When Can You File a Child Abandonment Case?

You can file a child abandonment case under one of the following circumstances:

  1. A child was left without any identification (such as a birth certificate) by a legal parent.
  2. A child was left by the sole custodial parent, or both parents, in the care of another adult for an extended period of six or more months. During such period, the legal parent, or parents, have failed to communicate with their child, as well as not provide any financial support. In addition, the legal parent, or parents, showed every intention of purposefully abandoning the child.
  3. Your child was left in your custody and care for at least one year, and the other parent has not communicated with the child during that period. In addition, the other parent has failed to provide any financial support, and had every intention of abandoning your child.

If your circumstances fit one of the above scenarios, you may have a case for child abandonment. You can then seek termination of parental rights in California. However, keep in mind that because of the serious nature and lasting effects of child abandonment, the court is very hesitant to terminate the rights of parents. An experienced Fresno CA family law attorney can help you effectively prove that terminating parental rights will serve in your child’s best interest.

Proving That a Legal Parent Purposefully Abandoned Their Child

In order to successfully terminate a parent’s parental rights you must prove that the parent purposefully abandoned their child. The court recognizes the following evidence as intent of child abandonment. The parent:

  1. Left a child without providing any of their child’s identification (such as a birth certificate).
  2. Has not provided financial child support over an extended amount of time.
  3. Has not communicated with their child for over a specific amount of time.

Half-hearted attempts by the parent or parents to communicate with their child is not enough to prevent the court from terminating parental rights. The court only recognizes serious efforts to communicate with a child as evidence for keeping parental rights in tact.

Lasting Effects of Child Abandonment Rulings

If the court rules in favor of your child abandonment case, then the court will strip the child’s other parent of their parental rights. This means that that other parent can no longer bring visitation, custody, or support requests to the court. You will then become the child’s sole custodial parent.

Similarly, if the court determines both parents abandoned their child, then both parents will no longer retain any parental rights. The child will then go through the process of adoption, guardianship, or child dependency.

Consult an Experienced Fresno CA Family Law Attorney

A successful termination of parental rights in California requires the help of an experienced family law attorney. To learn more about how we can help, contact the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks today.

Step Parent Rights: What Are My Visitation Rights as a Step Parent?

Step Parent Rights Visitation Rights Family Lawyer Fresno CAIf you are a step parent, you may be wondering what your rights are when it comes to visiting your step child. Historically, step parents have held very few rights concerning their spouse’s children. However, that began to change after 2000, when most states passed legislation that broadened step parent rights, including visitation rights. While these rights vary by state, they are more or less based on the child’s relationship to the step parent and biological parents.

Step parent visitation cases can be complex, and often require the help of an experienced Fresno family law attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks today for a consultation.

Who Qualifies as a Step Parent?

Under California law, a step parent is defined as someone who is legally married to the biological parent of a child. So if you are not legally married, you do not have step parent rights and cannot request the court for visitation rights.

Rights of Step Parents Who Haven’t Adopted Their Children Yet

In regards to child custody, the law protects biological parents rights to physical and legal custody above all else. Which means that if you’re a step parent who has yet to adopt your step child, then legally you have no standing to make important decisions on your child’s behalf.

However, many states had adopted legislation that grants step parents visitation rights similar to the rights grandparents hold. This is because the court recognizes that suddenly ending the relationship between a child and an important adult in their life can be quite harmful.

What Happens If the Child’s Biological Parent Passes Away?

In the event that a child’s biological parent passes away, then custody of said child will typically revert back to the non-custodial parent. That is unless a step parent formally adopts their step child beforehand. Some states allow step parents to petition for custody of a child after the death of a biological parent. This is especially true if the child continues to live with the step parent after the nature parent passes away. Ultimately, the court will look towards what serves in the child’s best interest when deciding custody.

Step Parents and the Best Interests of a Child

The court will always rule in decisions that serve in a child’s best interests. When evaluating a step parent’s visitation rights, or just awarding step parent rights in general, the court must determine if doing so will positively affect a child’s life. Here are some factors the court considers when determining these rights:

  • A biological parent’s ability to care for the child
  • The emotional relationship between a step parent and step child
  • If there is any history of abuse from a biological parent
  • The current age of the child
  • How much time a step parent spends with their step child

If you as the step parent has served as a permanent parental figure to your step child, then the court will most likely grant you visitation rights.

How Step Parents Can Request Visitation Rights

In California, you must file a step parent visitation petition with a family law court. Filing such a petition typically opens a new case that involves you as the step parent and the biological parents as different parties. However, if there is already an ongoing custody case between both biological parents, then you will need to join as party on that case.

Are Step Parents Required to Pay Child Support?

Common law states that step parents do not hold any legal obligation to support a step child financially. However, that is not true if a step parent:

  • Chooses to act “in loco parentis”, or
  • Voluntarily takes on responsibilities and functions as a parent.

Similarly, the “estoppel doctrine” prevents a step parent from going back on any promises if doing should would financially harm a child. Again though, this doctrine only takes effect if a step parent assumes the role of a child’s parent and causes that child to rely on them financially. If the step parent meets these such conditions, then the court will require them pay child support.

Speak to a Fresno CA Step Parent Rights Lawyer

Our seasoned legal team understands the frustration step parents experience when trying to obtain visitation rights. Contact the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks today to speak to a step parent rights lawyer who can help.