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THE RIGHT OF A STEPPARENT OR COHABITANT TO REQUEST VISITATION WITH OR CUSTODY OF A STEPCHILD: STANDING
The very first issue a stepparent must face is whether he or she even has standing to request custody or visitation of a stepchild. The question of standing may arise in a variety of judicial forums for resolving custody disputes between parents and non-parents. Guardianship proceedings, habeas corpus proceedings after a parent has died, and the civil child protection system all establish judicial authority to consider the custody of children. Further, in many states, a third party may seek custody of a child if the child has been in the third party's possession for a specified amount of time preceding the filing.
THE STANDARD FOR GRANTING CUSTODY TO STEPPARENT OR FORMER COHABITANT
Once the initial standing hurdle is passed, thereby allowing the stepparent or former cohabitant to press a claim for custody, the next question facing the stepparent is under what standard must the court decide custody: under the "best interests of the child" standard, under a "parental unfitness" standard, or under some other standard?
STATE LAWS AND CASES
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