Step Parents and Divorce
With blended families becoming more widespread, it has been increasingly common for the rights of step parents to factor into divorce proceedings. In Delaware, a step parent who has financially or emotionally supported a child for an extended period of time can apply for full or partial custody upon the dissolution of their marriage. To do so, it is necessary to convince the court that the custodial arrangement is in the best interests of the child.
If you’re a step parent to a minor and in the process of divorcing from your spouse, the family law attorneys at Rahaim & Saints can help you identify your rights during these often difficult proceedings. Since 1993, our firm has been providing compassionate, caring service to clients throughout Delaware. Call our team today to schedule your low cost initial consultation with one of our divorce lawyers.
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Your Rights as a Step Parent
As a step parent who has played a significant role in raising the biological child of your spouse, it can be argued that it is in the child’s best interests for that role to continue following divorce. This can happen in a number of different ways:
- Custody: It may be possible to gain full or partial custody of a step child. Custody gives you the right to make decisions on behalf of the child, including where they live and go to school. Joint custody agreements are a mutual understanding between both parents. Obtaining sole custody over a step child is more difficult, and it typically only occurs when both biological parents are not mentally or physical fit enough to care for them.
- Guardianship: Step parents may also be able to apply for guardianship. Guardianship is similar to custody but does not supersede parental rights. In fact, either of the biological parents can apply to have guardianship rescinded at any time.
- Visitation: Visitation rights allow a step parent to continue to play a role in the life of the child without separating them from their biological parent. Generally speaking, it’s easier for a step parent to apply for visitation rights than custody or guardianship.
- Child support: Following a divorce from their biological parent, you may be asked to continue to contribute financially to the upbringing of your step child. Determining this and other forms of spousal support is an important part of any divorce proceeding — one that requires professional representation to ensure your interests are safeguarded.
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Step Parents and Adoption
In certain cases, it may be possible to legally adopt your step child. Many people who marry into a blended family, with their spouse’s consent, will choose to do so. This affords them legal protection in the future should anything happen. A step parent may also apply for adoption following the death of the child’s biological parent. In this case, it is necessary to convince the court that this arrangement is in both parties’ best interests.
Contact Rahaim & Saints Today
If you have played a role in the upbringing of your step children, Rahaim & Saints may be able to help you continue this relationship following your divorce. Contact our Newark or Wilmington office today for more information.