Do Stepparents Have Rights During a Divorce?
While stepparents have few legal rights when it comes to child custody in divorce, there are actions you can take to protect your relationship with your stepchild.
Considering the high rates of both divorce and remarriage, blended families are more common today than they were decades ago. Today, stepparents and stepchildren often share a relationship that is just as close as if they were related by blood. Unfortunately, the laws regarding stepparent rights and child custody have not changed with the times, and in cases of divorce, that can lead to heartbreak. While your rights may be limited under Georgia laws, there are actions stepparents can take to help protect themselves and their relationships with their stepchildren.
The Role of Stepparents in Child Custody Proceedings
Whenever couples with children get divorced, child custody and visitation becomes a major issue. The court’s primary concern in these types of cases is protecting the child and making sure his or her best interests are served. This generally translates into encouraging both parents to remain active and involved in the child’s life. Unfortunately, this only applies to biological parents.
While the bond between a stepparent and stepchild may be just as close, options are limited when it comes to being included in any parenting plans or court orders issued in the case. Under Section 19-7-3 of the Georgia Code, the rights of other family members may be considered in child custody proceedings. However, this generally only applies to:
● Great grandparents;
● Any siblings of the child.
Unless the stepparent has previously taken the steps necessary to legally adopt the child, he or she may be forced to rely on mutual agreements made with the biological parent.
Protecting Your Relationship With Your Stepchild
If you are a stepparent dealing with custody and visitation issues, you are not alone. The Step Family Foundation reports that more than half of the 60 million children living throughout the United States are raised in stepparent homes. It is only a matter of time before the law catches up in protecting the rights of stepparents. In the meantime, there are actions you can take to protect yourself.
One of the most important actions you can take is to legally adopt your stepchild, provided your spouse supports the decision and the other parent is either no longer in the picture or does not object. If this is not an option, other ways to help ensure you remain a part of your stepchild’s life include:
● Maintain a respectful relationship with the biological parent;
● Offer to watch the child while the other parent works or attends to errands;
● Show support and ask to be included in the child’s school, sports, or recreational events;
● Ask that any involvement you have be included in the parenting plan.
Contact Our Norcross Divorce Attorneys
If you are a stepparent going through a divorce, Zimmerman & Associates provides the trusted legal guidance and professional representation needed to protect you and your relationship with your stepchild. To request a consultation, reach out and call or contact our Norcross divorce attorneys online today.