Can I get custody of my step daughter that I have raised for 16 years?

I have raised my step daughter and now her mom are getting a divorce. She is trying to take her daughter from me all because my girlfriend and I are getting serious and she doesn’t like it. I never legally adopted her; her mom never let me. We have 3 other children together. I just want to know can I get custody of my 16 year old step daughter or does her mom have full control of this situation. Is there anything I can do?

Asked on November 8, 2011 under Family Law, California


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your situation.  You sound like a really loving parent and it is a shame that you have not been able to make the relationship between you and your daughter "legal."  But unfortunately you hit the nail on the head when you stated that her Mother has full control of the situation: you have no real rights as a step parent with out a legal adoption.  So you have no right to custody or visitation.  Now, you have not stated if her biological father is in the picture at all.  Does he have visitation?  Does he pay support? It sounds as if you have supported your daughter all her life.  Do you intend on continuing? Becuase even though legally you do not have to support her, if you are choosing to do so I think that you should also ask the court for visitation with her and especially in keeping her and her siblings from feeling as if they are indeed a family in your eyes when you take the other kids for visitation.  Seek legal help here.  Good luck.

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