Californians may be surprised to learn that the letter of the law is not always fair. A child may be born to a drug addict mother who leaves her child with a grandmother for months on end. The woman may drift in and out of the child’s life, using her mother’s address as her own and being barely recognized by her child when she visits. If this troubled mother decides to get clean and take her child, the grandmother usually has no legal rights to the child, even if the child has bonded to the grandmother, because the law will likely give custody to the biological parent.
Another example of how the law might favor a biological parent is if a couple with children from prior relationships marry and create a blended family. If this couple later divorces, neither may have any legal parental rights over the children who are not their biological offspring, even though they may have strong emotional bonds with the children from years of parenting.
Marriage itself can also create familial tension. If a parent of a newlywed helps the couple financially, he or she may be dismayed to find that if the couple should split, the ex-spouse may be able to take half of the marital assets, including the property that was provided to the couple by the parent. Although there may have been an understanding that any financial assistance was a loan, if there is no documentation for the loan, the law will see it as a gift.
According to one family law professional, it is important to document financial agreements and file promissory notes, even among family. Although this may be uncomfortable to discuss finances and adoption up front, it can save a lot of heartache later. Court decisions in a child custody dispute usually favor biological parents in the absence of adoption.
Source: Huffington Post, “The ‘F’ Word in Family Law“, Natalie Gregg, December 03, 2013