Does the Stepfather Have Rights to a Child If the Father Is Still in the Picture?

By Beverly Bird

If you're concerned what will happen to your relationship with your stepchildren after the dust of your divorce has settled, you probably have good cause. Stepparents don't have automatic rights to custody. This rule generally has less to do with their biological father than with your spouse – if she already has custody of the kids from her last marriage or relationship, she's probably calling the shots now that the two of you are parting ways.

If you're concerned what will happen to your relationship with your stepchildren after the dust of your divorce has settled, you probably have good cause. Stepparents don't have automatic rights to custody. This rule generally has less to do with their biological father than with your spouse – if she already has custody of the kids from her last marriage or relationship, she's probably calling the shots now that the two of you are parting ways.

The Court's Position

Family laws are not universal -- they vary from state to state -- so your situation may be more bleak in one jurisdiction than another. For example, Illinois statutes focus almost entirely on whether the custodial parent – your spouse – is alive and fit. If she is and doesn't want you to have time with your stepchildren after your divorce is over, you probably won't have visitation or custody.

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Your Options

Other states, such as Florida, will allow you to ask for visitation with your stepchildren as part of your divorce action, even if your spouse objects. Whether the judge grants your request depends on your relationship with the children, and whether the judge believes an ongoing relationship with you is in their best interests. If you were close and an integral part of their lives, there's a chance that the court might override your spouse's wishes. This assumes that she has custody. If her ex has custody, you may have to file a court action against their father, separate and apart from your divorce. You may not have this option in some states, so consult with an attorney.

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How Fathers Can Win Custody

References

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Pennsylvania Laws on Third Parties & Child Custody

In Pennsylvania, parents have a right to spend time with their child after a divorce. This may be at odds, however, with members of either parent's family who believe that they are in a better position to care for the child than the child's own parents. Knowing how courts in Pennsylvania treat requests by non-parent "third parties" will reduce some of the uncertainty in your custody dispute.

Standards for Moving Children During a Divorce in Georgia

The Georgia Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in 2003 regarding parental relocation, effectively turning previous case law in the state on its ear. If you're going through a divorce and you want to leave the state, that's fine – but the court may not let you take your children with you. Permanent custody isn't awarded until your final divorce decree is issued, and the decree could give custody to your children's other parent if you hope to move them out of state.

Can a Noncustodial Parent Lose Visitation for Nonpayment of Child Support?

Courts encourage relationships between parents and children, so an ex-spouse who does not pay child support as ordered generally will not lose court-ordered visitation just because of the nonpayment. However, this does not mean the spouse receiving child support does not have resources to enforce the child support order and collect past-due payments.

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