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RobertJDFL, Lawyer
Category: Family Law
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Experience:  Experienced in multiple areas of the law.
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Can my 17 year old step daughter choose to live with me

Customer Question

Can my 17 year old step daughter choose to live with me since her mom passed away with cancer, rather than her biological father? Her wishes have been to stay living with me in the family home but her father is beginning to act as though he may challenge her wishes.
Submitted: 2 months ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  RobertJDFL replied 2 months ago.

Thank you for using Just Answer. I look forward to assisting you.

Unfortunately, she cannot. You can petition for custody of your step-child, but I would say those cases are not typical. The biological father has a legal right to custody of the child, and as a minor your stepdaughter doesn't get to decide who she wants to live with. In order to get custody, you'd have to provide the court with overwhelming reason for why you should be granted custody (e.g., he's abusive, neglectful, etc). Another option may be to petition for visitation. Factors a court will consider on a petition by a third party to seek visitation time include, but are not limited to:

  • The degree of significant participation in the life of the child, including length of time stepparent may have stood in as the de facto parent;
  • The existence of an emotional relationship between the stepparent and stepchild
  • The degree of financial assistance provided by the stepparent;
  • Detriment to the child if visitation is denied.

When seeking visitation, a third party must show reasons to overcome the parent's prima facie right to uninterrupted custody. In a visitation case, the third party need only convince the court that it is in the child's best interest to give some time to the third party. As the amount of time requested moves the visit further from a visit and closer to custody, the reasons offered in support of the request must become correspondingly more convincing.

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