Can a Non-Parent Initiate Custody Proceedings?

In Scott v. Superior Court the appellant challenged the court to decide whether the court had jurisdiction in a Uniform Parentage Act or UPA to rule that a stepparent has the ability to challenge custody so that she can obtain visitation.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND LEADING TO THE DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE
There are three adults involved in this litigation. The biological parents and the girlfriend of the father. The father and his girlfriend lived together for eight years. Early in the relationship, father gained primary custody of the minor children. When the relationship between the girlfriend and the father deteriorated, father denied the girlfriend visitation with the minor children. The girlfriend petitioned under the UPA to be joined as a litigant to the inactive legal proceedings in which father was awarded sole legal and physical custody of the minor children.

DIVORCE TRIAL PROCEEDINGS
The trial court agreed with the girlfriend that she should be joined as a litigant in the UPA, because she had become a de facto mother of the children. The trial court joined her as an indispensable party to the action. The father filed a petition for writ of mandate in the Appellate Court stating that the former girlfriend lacked standing to be joined as a party to the UPA proceedings.

APPEAL OF THE DIVORCE COURT’S RULING
The Third District Appellate Court agreed with the father and stated that under the Family Code, a non-parent cannot initiate an independent proceeding to determine custody. A non-parent could initiate a custody proceeding only through a Guardianship. The court did indicate however, that had the mother or father initiated the UPA proceedings, then the court may have had subject matter jurisdiction to determine custody.

If you need a divorce attorney in the Orange County area to address a custody issue in the dissolution of a marriage or any other divorce matter such as legal separation, annulment, child support, spousal support and/or property division, contact our law office located in Laguna Hills at (949) 643-5662. Conveniently located off of the 5 and 405 freeway at Lake Forest.

Treviño Law, Inc.
23151 Moulton Parkway
Laguna Hills, California
Phone (949) 643-5662Visit us at
www.LawintheOC.com

Please note that the posting of this information does not constitute legal advice for a divorce in Orange County. Facts and circumstances of the dissolution proceedings may alter the required action and analysis in any given family law case.
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