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The Law and Stepparents

Posted On: December 11, 2014

According to the Pew Research Center, there are about 30 million stepparents in the United States. Almost half of all adults have a step relationship of some kind. Stepparents and their stepchildren have special relationships. Sometimes a child is no more than “my partner’s kid,” but in many cases, stepparents and children bond as much as a child would with his or her birth-parents.

What should stepparents know about their rights if their relationship does not last?

One of the most important things about stepparents and the law is standing. Standing refers to the right of a person to seek legal intervention, in this case the rights of a non-biological parent, several factors are taken into account including:

  • The stepparent’s participation in the child’s life
  • The length of time the stepparent was in the child’s life
  • The emotional bond between the stepparent and child, and how ending the relationship would affect the child
  • The amount of financial support the stepparent provided

Being granted visitation, and even more so custody, when you are a stepparent is rare. It is becoming increasingly more frequent for stepparents to be granted visitation rights with stepchildren because blended families are more common, but it is still considered out of the norm and requires a great deal of effort on the part of the stepparent.

At present, about half of the states have laws authorizing stepparent visitation. Ten additional states expressly grant stepparents rights to seek visitation. And then thirteen more grant interested third parties rights to request visitation and categorize stepparents with these people. In the future, laws will likely address both stepparent custody and visitation with greater vigor.

Considering a Child’s Best Interest
As with all custody and visitation situations, the courts use the child’s best interest to guide decisions. A stepparent or any interested third party is more likely to be granted time with a child if he or she played a significant role in the child’s life prior to the request for visitation. Obviously, courts will show less sympathy for stepparents making bad life decisions that affect children more than in cases of birth parent in the same situation.

If you are the stepparent of a child and you are concerned changes in your relationship with your stepchild’s parent will alter your relationship with the child, you should speak to an attorney. He or she can help you determine your rights and will fight on your behalf so the court understands your role in the child’s life.

Have questions about Family Law or need help in this area, then feel free contact attorney SPIRIO at 631-277-8844.