Do Step-Parents Have Parental Rights?
When it comes to parental rights in a blended family, there is sometimes confusion regarding the stepparent’s role and their level of legal rights when it comes to their spouse’s children. Occasionally, biological parents or new stepparents come to believe that through marriage, the stepparent inherits a legal obligation and rights to their new spouse’s children. I want to begin by stating that this is absolutely not the case. Just because you marry someone with children does not mean that you gain any legal rights to the child immediately upon that marriage. Although, it is admirable that a stepparent wishes to take the role of a parent, it is important to remember that legally the stepparent is not equal to the biological parents. No matter how involved or uninvolved one of the parents might be with the children, the stepparent’s role is always inferior to the child’s parents/legal guardians.
The only way that a stepparent can gain legal rights to the child is through a legal adoption. Once the child is legally adopted, the stepparent will become a legal guardian or legal adoptive parent, and will have the same parental rights as a biological parent to that child. Only at that point will the stepparent have legal rights to make decisions for their stepchild’s wellbeing, such as decisions on education, health or medical decisions, religion, etc.
It’s important for biological parents and stepparents alike to remember that regardless of marriage, stepparents do not automatically have any rights to their stepchildren. For this reason it is crucial for those in blended families to always honor and not go against the biological parent’s wishes.
If you have questions about your rights as a biological parent, stepparent, or other important figure in a child’s life, please do not hesitate to contact our office to discuss your particular situation in detail. Our office can be reached at (702) 998-1188, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by scheduling a consultation online.