For many people, entering into a relationship with someone who has a child from a previous relationship means that you’re forming a bond with the child as much as with the adult partner. This can be extremely tricky if the relationship ends up dissolving, because you’ll feel like you’re losing out on a kid whom you’ve come to think of as you own, even if you aren’t related by blood. The law is a bit hazy on the rights of step-parents, and different states will treat the relationship differently. However, some broad generalizations can be made.
Custody is Difficult to Achieve
Generally speaking, a step-parent is what’s known as a “legal stranger” to the child. That means that the step-parent is not connected by blood or relation, and therefore has no legal rights to claim custody. This changes somewhat if the step-parent marries the biological parent, or goes through the process of legally adopting the child. It’s possible to claim then that the step-parent has a legal right to custody if the biological parent dies or is otherwise unfit to care for the child, and the other biological parent has never been awarded custody.
Visitation is Easier
Even if getting custody is difficult, it’s somewhat easier to attain visitation rights. Visitation rights can be granted to a step-parent provided that it can be demonstrated that the child and the step-parent have a significant emotional bond, and that the child would benefit from visitation. This is easier to prove than getting custody, though it does still take a skilled family law attorney to demonstrate this for the court.
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