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  1. #1
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    Feb 2013
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    Default When a Biological Parent Passes, Should a Stepfather or Grandparent Get Custody

    My question involves a child custody case from the State of: California

    Hello,
    The situation I am inquirying about is rather complicated. I am trying to determine what the legal rights are for both the matneral grandparents and the stepfather in the below situation.

    A friend of mine recently passed away. She was married, but had two children from a previous marriage (and they also have two together). The biological father has waived all parental rights. However, the stepfather has never legally adopted the two children. Since her passing, the family dynamics have gotten complicated. The stepfather has moved out of the family home (which actually belongs to the maternal grandparents) and has moved in with another woman and her family. The two little children that are biologically his, moved with him as they were not given an choice. The two older children which are not biologically his, opted to move in with the maternal grandparents since they don't agree with his choices. It is my understanding that the will states the stepfather is to have all the children, but according to him, the will can not be located. We would like to know who is responsible for what in terms of the care and financial considerations. Unfortunately, the grandparents are concerned about losing visitation with the other two children so a peaceful resolution is preferred. Any thoughts you can share? Thank you.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: When a Biological Parent Passes, Should a Stepfather or Grandparent Get Custody

    When you say "waived all parental rights", do you mean that Mom had sole custody, or that Dad never established paternity etc.,?

    Even if the will specifies Mom's wishes that the children stay with him, it's not enforceable since children cannot be "willed". If she set up a standby guardianship, that might make things different. Other than that, Stepdad has no rights or obligations to the children.

    As far as the grandparents go, they have no inherent rights to visitation with any of the children. The likely do have standing to sue for visitation though - they'd be best advised seeking a consultation with an attorney since GPV suits are never a do-it-yourself project.

    How old are the children in question? (all of them!)
    An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise - Victor Hugo

    Do not microwave grapes

  3. #3
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    Feb 2013
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    Default Re: When a Biological Parent Passes, Should a Stepfather or Grandparent Get Custody

    Thank you for the quick feedback. The mom had sole custody of the two older children. The paternity was never in question. When she got remarried, they were talking about having the stepfather adopt the two older children so they processed the proper paperwork to avoid any complications with any adoption. I am probably not using the correct terms, so I apologize for that. The biological father has not been in the picture for 12 years. The kids are 15, 12, 5, and 3.

    I don't know if any kind of standby guardianship was established or not for the two older children.

    So if the stepfather has no rights or obligations to the children and the grandparents have no inherent rights either...what happens? Who becomes finanically responsible for their care and well-being? Without knowing what is in the will because it is "lost", there is a lot of uncertainty.

    The stepfather appears to be okay with the two children living with the grandparents...he isn't fighting that decision. Part of the concern is for the financial apects. There was life insurance money and a savings account (which many people and businesses contributed to for her get well and family fund...she was sick with cancern for 3 years) which obviously went to the stepfather. The rest of the family is unsure if the two older children will see any of that money now even though they were told that part of it was to go towards their college education.

  4. #4
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    Apr 2009
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    Default Re: When a Biological Parent Passes, Should a Stepfather or Grandparent Get Custody

    With the two eldest, the biological father is technically on the hook for both the obligations and rights. Given however that he hasn't been in the picture for so long, it would not be unreasonable for either set of grandparents (or really, any other interested third party) to at least consider guardianship (if not full custody). And they can also pursue the biological father for child support.

    Stepdad is not financially responsible for the eldest two. If the grandparents do get guardianship or custody, they need to look into dependent benefits from SSA.
    An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise - Victor Hugo

    Do not microwave grapes

  5. #5
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    Feb 2013
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    Default Re: When a Biological Parent Passes, Should a Stepfather or Grandparent Get Custody

    I don't believe the biological father has ever paid child support for the two eldest. I am trying to remember if she ever went to court for abandonment or anything like that. I just don't know. And from what I do know of the biological father, trying to get child support would be like trying to get blood from a turnip.

    I think the SSA benefits are already being paid out but I think they are going to the stepfather's attention. We will need to look into that further.

    Thank you again for all the information.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: When a Biological Parent Passes, Should a Stepfather or Grandparent Get Custody

    Have the grandparents take a look here, too:

    http://www.courts.ca.gov/1206.htm
    An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise - Victor Hugo

    Do not microwave grapes

  7. #7
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    Default Re: When a Biological Parent Passes, Should a Stepfather or Grandparent Get Custody

    Thank you!

  8. #8
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    Default Re: When a Biological Parent Passes, Should a Stepfather or Grandparent Get Custody

    Thank you again!

  9. #9
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    Default Re: When a Biological Parent Passes, Should a Stepfather or Grandparent Get Custody

    You're welcome

    And my condolences to all involved for the loss of Mom.
    An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise - Victor Hugo

    Do not microwave grapes

  10. #10
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    Feb 2013
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    Default Re: When a Biological Parent Passes, Should a Stepfather or Grandparent Get Custody

    Thank you for that as well. She was an extraordinary woman who was taken much too early in life. It is heartbreaking that the family is enduring so much turmoil and loss in such a short period of time. They are all very special to me and I appreciate your help and guidance in the matter.

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