Can Non Parents Request Child Custody or Visitation Orders for a Child?

Yes. Believe it or not the law is broader in this area then one might think.  Child Custody or Visitation is not limited to the natural parents of the child.  For example, adoptive Parents, Presumed Parents, and even same sex couples can request custody or visitation. Here is a general overview:

Natural Parents

A child’s mother and father (a presumed to be a father- for example one that is listed on the birth certificate or was married to the mother when the child was born) can both seek to assert their relationship as natural parents and seek orders requesting child custody or visitation.

Adoptive Parents

Once an adoption proceeding has been completed (whether an independent adoption or a stepparent adoption), the adoptive parent is, for all legal purposes, a natural parent. Thus, these parents can also seek custody or visitation.

Presumed Parents

Even when there is some question of who might be a natural parent, the Courts have attempted to provide some guideline for this analysis. The Family Code defines a “parent and child relationship” and provides avenues for establishing such a relationship through the operation of various presumptions and the use of parentage actions. In a parentage action, a presumed parent potentially may assert a right to custody or visitation, provided a parent and child relationship has been established or a finding that the making of such an order would be in the best interest of the child at issue.

Same Sex

A same-sex couple can even seek to establish legal rights to a child by virtue of one of the other laws:

For example, a woman who gives birth to a child would be a natural parent. Her partner might be an adoptive parent (see above). The Supreme Court has noted in three cases that a child may have two female parents.  Male same-sex couples can adopt children and thus have legal rights arising out of that relationship as well or one member of the couple may also be the natural parent of the child.

Grand Parents

Grandparents have rights to children as well.  Under normal circumstances they cannot obtain custody but may petition for visitation with their grandchildren in the following situations:

  1. A parent is decease;
  2. A dissolution or other family law proceeding is pending in which child custody is already at issue;
  3. The parents are not married to one another, including after a marital dissolution;
  4. The parents are married but are living separately and apart on a permanent or indefinite basis, and meet other statutory criteria; or
  5. The child has been adopted by a stepparent.

To learn more about this topic or family law in general visit the Core Law Group Blog at or contact either our Los Angeles or Orange County Offices toll free at 888-652-5529 or 949-505-2479.