As family structures have changed and become more complicated over the past few generations, so have the circumstances that many families find challenging them during divorce. If you are a spouse who has become a stepparent, you may wonder what your rights are regarding your stepchildren should your current marriage end.
If you are in this position, it is important to work with experienced divorce attorneys who can help you seek visitation privileges in order to maintain an ongoing relationship with your stepchildren.
Changing Views on Stepparent Roles
Divorce lawyers know that not long ago, stepparents were given little to no consideration for visitation privileges or any other kind of role in child custody following a divorce. Custody was awarded to the biological parents if either or both of them were still alive. For stepparents who were actively involved in the lives of their stepchildren, these views are slowly changing as the family unit continues to evolve. More remarriages and combined families are a reality today, which can affect issues like visitation and sometimes custody when such marriages end.
Stepparents with the help of their divorce attorneys can petition the court for visitation depending on individual circumstances and their relationship with the involved stepchildren. Being a stepparent may not automatically exclude you from being legally able to maintain a relationship with your stepchildren.
Increasing Stepparent Roles After Divorce
The continuous evolution of the family unit has created situations where the family court is considering the fact that many stepparents play a primary role in raising and nurturing their stepchildren. Because of this, divorce lawyers can now represent non-biological parents seeking visitation and occasionally custody arrangements.
Preference is still given to the biological parent; however, the courts now weigh a stepparent's relationship according to the amount and type of involvement they have had with raising the children as well as other details about the family in general.
Family Court Decisions
When a divorce occurs, it is the role of the family court to make decisions according to what is considered to be in a child’s best interest. To be awarded visitation or custody as a stepparent, the courts will consider everything from the length of your relationship with the child, your emotional connection and personal involvement, financial contributions and support, and whether denying consideration would be detrimental to the child.
If a good stepparent/child association existed prior to the divorce, it you have been the main caretaker and provider for a long time, if there is some reason why the biological spouse is unfit to have custody, or if the biological parent is not available to assume the role for certain reasons, such information can be considered during a custody hearing. It is important to bear in mind that the other biological parent will be considered before the stepparent to have custody of the child.
Divorce attorneys stress that while getting the court to consider a case can still be challenging for stepparents, they are no longer automatically excluded from consideration simply because they are not the biological parent. The viewpoint towards divorce has changed and attempts to accommodate different family situations that exist can be considered. If you are a stepparent seeking visitation or custody, it is best to work with experienced divorce lawyers who can represent you and your relationship with your stepchildren to its fullest.
Garza & Elizondo, LLP
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Brownsville TX 78526
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San Benito TX 78586