A “traditional” family once consisted of two parents and a couple of kids. However, families come in all different shapes and sizes. Some families have one parent. Others may not have any parents because a couple chooses not to have children. 

Today, a parent can be anyone who cares for a child. It could be the child’s grandparent, sibling, uncle, or aunt. It could be a family friend, foster parent, or adoptive parent. When someone other than the biological parent cares for a child, the court refers to the person as a de facto parent. 

What Is a De Facto Parent in California?

The California Rules of Court define a de facto parent in Rule 5.502(10) as someone the court finds has assumed the role of a parent on a day-to-day basis for a substantial period. The person is taking care of the child’s psychological and physical needs for affection and care. 

You can be a de facto parent for a child if:

  • The child is a dependent of the juvenile court;
  • You have been or are currently taking care of the child each day; 
  • You have assumed the role of a parent for the child; or,
  • You have met or are meeting the child’s needs for clothing, shelter, food, affection, and care.

Courts often name de facto parents when a biological parent cannot or will not meet a child’s needs and/or places the child in danger or at risk of harm. The court may relocate a child if the child is in a dangerous situation, such as the parents engaging in criminal activity.

A de facto parent can be any adult the court finds fit and proper to have care and custody of the child. The person does not need to be the child’s biological relative to be a de facto parent. Therefore, the court might name a stepparent, distant relative, or other adult as the child’s de facto parent.

What Rights Do De Facto Parents Have Under California Law?

If the court declares that you are a child’s de facto parent, you have certain rights regarding the child. 

Your rights include, but might not be limited to, the right to:

  • Be present in court for dependency proceedings;
  • Present evidence and cross-examine witnesses at a hearing;
  • Retain an attorney or apply to the court for appointment of an attorney to represent you; and,
  • Participate in a disposition hearing and any hearings after that.

There are some rights a de facto parent does not have. For example, de facto parents aren’t entitled to attorneys’ fees if they hire an attorney. They will not be required to pay attorneys’ fees if they qualify for a court-appointed lawyer. 

If a de facto parent disagrees with the court’s ruling in dependency proceedings, they cannot request another hearing. However, they can file an appeal of the judge’s decision. 

How Can I Become a De Facto Parent in San Diego, CA?

If you desire to become a child’s de facto parent, the first step is to complete a De Facto Parent Request Form (JV-295). The form requires basic contact information and states that you want to become the child’s de facto parent.

Next, you must complete the De Facto Parent Statement Form (JV-296). You use this form to argue your case to become a child’s de facto parent.

You need to include the following information:

  • How long you have cared for the child
  • The extent of your relationship with the child
  • The steps you take to care for the child’s needs 
  • What you know about the child that other people might not know that helps you care for the child

You must complete and file the above forms with the court. You may also submit letters of recommendation from other people in the child’s life, which is strongly recommended. 

The recommendation letters explain why you should be a de facto parent for the child. The letters can be from pastors, coaches, teachers, family friends, and other relatives who have a relationship with the child.

Should I Contact a Lawyer About Becoming a De Facto Parent in San Diego, CA?

Custody hearings are contentious and complex based on the nature of the matters before the court. Therefore, it is wise to have experienced legal counsel to guide you through the process. Furthermore, an experienced San Diego child custody attorney understands the law and how to present compelling arguments and evidence that support granting a person the status of a de facto parent. 

Contact Our Child Custody Law Firm in San Diego, CA

Contact our experienced San Diego child custody lawyers at San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC, today for legal assistance. Contact our San Diego office at (619) 866-3756 to schedule a free consultation.

San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC
2851 Camino del Rio S #430
San Diego, CA 92108