In a dependency case, foster parents, grandparents, and other caretakers have special knowledge about a child’s best interest. Too often the perspective of these vital relationships to a child’s life are overlooked by the court and social workers. Generally, only a party to a case has standing to participate and present evidence.
A De Facto parent is someone who has assumed a day-to-day basis role as a parent, fulfilling both the child’s physical and psychological need for care and affection for a substantial period of time. The court’s liberally grant motions of De Facto parents based on the law. It is the court’s job to determine the best interest of a child and a De Facto parent provides wonderful insight to the court. De Facto status allows you to present evidence that promotes the best interest of the child i and participate in decisions regarding a child’s placement.
A De Facto parent has the right to be represented by counsel, present evidence, and be present at otherwise confidential dependency court proceedings. If you have had placement of a child in foster care for a substantial period of time, want to adopt, and it appears that the child will be placed in another home it is wise to file for De Facto status. Another time to file for De Facto status is when you fit the criteria of a De Facto parent and the social worker refuses to place the child with you.
In family law, grandparents do not have automatic rights to custody and visitation of their grandchildren. Grandparents often act as parents to grandchildren for many years only to have parents sweep the rug out from under their feet and deprive them of any visitation. The courts have very limited power under the law to award grandparents visitation. Family Code Section 3103 (d) creates a rebuttable presumption against grandparent visitation orders when the parents agree the order is not in the best interest of the minor. Consulting a lawyer for an assessment of your family’s circumstances and how those facts fit into the law is crucial in determining if grandparent’s rights will be ordered by the court.