When it comes to child custody, there is no question that biological parents’ rights generally trump those of non-biological parents, such as stepparents. However, that does not mean non-biological parents are never granted custody. A court decides each custody situation on its merits, and there are times when a non-biological parent will receive custody over a biological parent. Circumstances in which a court might award custody to a non-biological parent include:
- Unfitness of biological parent
- Unavailability of biological parent pertaining to desertion, incarceration, or other factors
- Awarding custody to biological parent would not be in the child’s best interests
Adoption and Non-Biological Parents
When a child is legally adopted by non-biological parents, the situation differs. A finalized adoption confers the same legal rights on the adoptive parents as if the child were their biological offspring. In a legal adoption, the biological parents have consented to have their parental rights terminated. It is rare for a state to revoke the biological parent’s adoption consent, and if this does occur, it is only done in extreme circumstances.
Gay and Lesbian Parents
When gay or lesbian parents decide to have children, an outside party is necessary either as a surrogate or sperm donor. One parent is biological, while the other is not. When same sex couples divorce or separate, or the biological parent dies, states have ruled that the non-biological parent has standing for custody or visitation rights, if the parties clearly agreed to raise the child together. However, the law varies by state, and it always wise for the non-biological parent in a same-sex marriage or relationship to legally adopt the child.
Same-sex couples are far from the only people using reproductive technologies to conceive children. When sperm and egg donors are used, there is always the possibility that a donor could sue for parental rights.
Stepparents and Custody
Many stepparents play critical roles in the lives of their stepchildren. If the couple divorces, the biological parents have custody. There are situations in which the stepparent may seek custody and obtain it, but that is generally because one of the biological parents is deceased, incarcerated, or otherwise unable to care for the child, and living with the other biological parent is deemed by the court as not in the child’s best interests.
Delaware County Child Custody Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Help Clients in Child Custody Battles
If you are going through a child custody battle, you need the services of the experienced Delaware County child custody lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. Laws involving non-biological parents are complex and legal expertise is needed. Call us today at 610-565-3701 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Chester County, Montgomery County, and Delaware County.