If you are a step-parent and are wondering what rights you have in regard to seeing your step-children, there’s a number of things you need to know.
In many scenarios, a step-parent won’t be entitled to see their step-children once they divorce the biological parent. As a result, face-to-face discussions and mediation are often needed to establish a right to see them.
Step-parents also need to be aware that they may have certain financial obligations to their step-children after a divorce.
A legal definition of ‘step-parent’
Before exploring further, it’s useful to clarify what the law considers to be a ‘step-parent’.
In the UK, step-parents must be married to a biological parent of a child.
Simply living together for a substantial period is not sufficient, whether or not the individual has taken on a traditional parental role.
Rights after the relationship ends
When a relationship ends, a step-parent may have questions over their rights and responsibilities regarding their step-children.
What happens next can depend on whether the step-parent acquired parental responsibility for the child during the relationship.
Parental responsibility is acquired in one of three ways:
- By agreement with all other individuals who already have parental responsibility
- By adopting the child
- By going through the courts and obtaining a court order.
Parental responsibility jointly gives individuals the legal right to make decisions regarding a child’s welfare, including decisions relating to medical treatment, relocation, religion, and education.
Acquiring parental responsibility while in a relationship with the biological parent can have a positive impact in court, if an order to see the child is requested.
Before going to court, the biological parent and the step-parent are required to go through a mediation process, in an attempt to resolve the issue.
If mediation is unsuitable, or if no agreement is reached, the step-parent can opt for court action.
Child Arrangements Order
For step-parents hoping to continue their relationship with their step-child, the most useful legal tool is a Child Arrangements Order.
These orders determine where the child lives and with whom they spend their time.
A variety of factors come into play when step-parents apply for a Child Arrangements Order and the official in charge will consider all circumstances before making a decision.
When it comes to a step-parent’s financial obligation to their step-child after a divorce, there are a few things to remember.
However, if the step-child was raised as if it were part of a new family – consisting of the step-parent, biological parent, and any children – the courts could determine that the step-parent needs to cover some costs.
In such a case, they may ask the step-parent to make monthly maintenance payments, lump-sum payments, school fees payments or provide them with a place to live. Claims for reasonable maintenance may also be made on death.
Posted on July 25, 2018