If you’re not a biological parent, do you have a right to see the child?

By Marissa A. Oxman, Esq.

When it comes to who has a right to see a child, genetic material counts, but it’s not everything.  Grandparents, adoptive parents, and some people who the law calls “presumed parents” can also have a right to see a child.  Here is a general overview:

  • Biological Parents
    • These are the individuals whose genetic material created the child.  These parents generally have rights to see the child.  In some cases, those rights can change based on how often the biological parent actually sees the child.  If someone prevents a biological parent from building a relationship with the child, the biological parents will probably keep their rights.  But, if the biological parent abandons the child, that can decrease the biological parent’s right to see the child.
    • In cases where a person is claiming to be the biological parent, the Court will need to proof of biology.  A judge can order a paternity test.
  • Adoptive Parents
    • A parent who has officially adopted a child has a legal right to see the child.  There are independent adoptions and step-parent adoptions.  Once an adoption proceeding has been completed, the adoptive parent has a legal right to see the child.
  • Presumed Parents
    • A presumed parent is a person (1) who is not the biological mother and (2) who the law presumes has a right to see the child based on the past relationship with the child.  A parent who signs a birth certificate, who was married or believed he was married to the child’s biological mother when the child was born, or who takes the child into his/her home and cares for the child as if it was his/her own can be a presumed parent.
    • A child can have more than two presumed parents, and the Court will want to decide whether giving a presumed parent rights to see the child is in the child’s best interest.
  • Same Sex Couples
    • Two people of the same sex can be a child’s parents and have a right to see the child, even if both of them are not the biological parents.  Same sex couple can have rights to see children under the same rules as other couples (see above).  This is especially true if the child was created because of the couple.
  • Grand Parents
    • Grandparents have a right to see their grandchildren.  The trick here is that the Court will only help a grandparent enforce those rights where the child is not living with both (or all) of the parents.  That means the parents need to be living separately, divorced, or going through a court case involving the child.

This blog is not meant to provide legal advice, and the law may have changed since it was written.  Every person and every case is different.  You should speak with an attorney about your specific circumstances.  Core Law Groups can help you develop a game plan that works for your specific circumstances.  If you or someone in your child’s life has questions about who has rights to see the child, schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys