Family Law

Divorce Visitation Rights FAQ

Q: Can a stepfather get visitation after he divorces the child's mother?

  • A:It depends on state law. In some states, the state has an interest in assuring that the child of a broken marriage receives the attention, care and concern it is presumed they would have received had the marriage and family life not been drastically altered by the divorce action. In such states, visitation for a stepparent is a definite possibility.

Q: Can same-sex partners petition for visitation rights of a child born during their relationship?

  • A:Most states have yet to make definitive rulings on gay rights topics. Same sex marriages aren't recognized in most states. The issue of gay marriages hasn't, however, prevented same-sex partners from getting certain parental rights after those relationships end. For example, the New Jersey Supreme Court recently upheld visitation rights to the non-biological "parent" of a lesbian relationship. The couple together cared for twins born by artificial insemination. After splitting up, the non-biological partner petitioned the court for joint custody of the children and the court award the non-biological partner visitation rights. The court reasoned that joint custody would be "unnecessarily disruptive" to the children because the non-biological partner hadn't been involved with the children for four years, but the non-biological parent carried the status of "psychological parent" and had the right to share in parenting duties despite the birth mother's objections.

Q: How can I see my kids if I was just released from jail?

  • A:The answer to your question will depend on several factors. You should first get a copy of your divorce papers to find out your legal parenting rights. If you were granted visitation in the original divorce paperwork and there have been no modifications by the court since that time, you can resume visitation according to the schedule set out in the paperwork. Because the children haven't seen you for some time, it's important that you cooperate with your ex-spouse so that the visitations with your children run smoothly. It may be necessary to request the court to modify your parenting rights.

Q: My ex-husband's sister lived in our household for a number of years, and now claims that if I won't let her spend time with my daughter she'll file for visitation rights. Can she do this?

  • A:The answer to your question will most likely depend on where your divorce was finalized. Many states have broadened visitation laws to allow visitation privileges to other people in a child's life besides parents. Visitation is not, however, an automatic right. The court must determine that the person seeking visitation has an interest in the welfare of the child and that the visitation is in the "best interests of the child." That can be a large hurdle to overcome.

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