March 7, 2013 By Paul Wallin

Under California Family Code Section 3101(a), the family law courts may grant a stepparent visitation with a stepchild if the court determines that it is in the stepchild’s best interest. It is important to note that the preferences of the natural parents will take precedence and may limit the visitation you, the stepparent, may have with your stepchild. Moreover, the court will deny your stepparent visitation with your stepchild if the court finds that such visitation would be detrimental to the child.

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Modifying A Visitation Order

However, as a stepparent, it is critical to understand that obtaining visitation orders with a stepchild is not a simple process and requires the guidance and aid of an experienced attorney. In a recent case heard by the California Court of Appeal in the 1st District, a stepparent was denied the ability to request a modification of a prior order denying her visitation rights with a stepchild.

This case is known as Chalmers v. Hirschkop, wherein two people agreed to have a child together through artificial insemination and agreed to have joint legal and physical custody of the child. In 2000, when child was born, the mother, Chalmers, was in a relationship with another woman, Hirschkop. Chalmers and Hirschkop terminated their relationship in 2008, in which  Hirschkop requested stepparent visitation rights with the child. The trial court denied her request, stating that the biological parents should decide what Hirschkop’s visitation rights should be. When the biological parents decided to reduce Hirschkop’s time with the child, Hirschkop filed a request to modify the court’s 2008 order. Again, the trial court denied her request.

The Court of Appeal in the 1st District affirmed the trial court’s decision. The Court of Appeal took notice of Family Code Section 3101 granting reasonable visitation to a stepparent, but also took notice that visitation rights “may not be ordered under [Section 3101] if visitation would conflict with a right of custody or visitation of a birth parent, who is not a party to the proceeding.” Furthermore, the Court of Appeal stated that Section 3101 does not have any language that allows a stepparent to request a modification of a denial of visitation.

Therefore, as a stepparent who has built a close relationship with a stepchild, it is vital that you retain a family law attorney who not only understands the family law courts but also can fight for your rights. At Wallin & Klarich we understand the parental relationship you have with your stepchild and are here to help you get visitation. Wallin & Klarich has been practicing family law for over 30 years. Call us today at 1-888-749-7428. Wallin and Klarich has offices in San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles and Orange Counties and can help you now. We will be there when you call.

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