The structures of California families are subject to change when parents’ divorce or separate and create new relationships with new partners. A child may have a biological mother and father as well as a step-mother, step-father and step-siblings if their biological parents enter into subsequent legal relationships. However, a parent generally does not lose their rights to their child when their ex-partner remarries. This post will examine how parental rights are established despite changing family structures.

After a divorce or a separation parents may put into place a plan that establishes their rights and responsibilities to their children. Even if one parent has sole physical custody of the kids, they both may share legal custody of the kids. These parental rights endure despite the divorce and can only be relinquished through consent or termination through the courts.

That is to say, a parent whose ex remarries does not cease to be their child’s parent just because a new person is introduced into their child’s family structure. In order for the step-parent to adopt the child the biological parent in question would have to give up their rights through consent or have a court rule against the protection of their parental rights.

An important factor to note, though, is the role of paternity in custody and adoption matters. If a man does not establish paternity of his child, he generally does not have parental rights over that youth. Without a recognized biological father a child could be adopted by their step-parent due to the lack of rights invested in their purported father.

A lack of custody in a child does not mean that a parent is no longer a parent. Step-parent adoption is not possible in cases where both of a child’s parents are still legal bound to the child. For further questions about custody and parental rights, readers should consult with their family law attorneys.