Does a stepfather have any rights to a stepchild in a divorce?

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Does a stepfather have any rights to a stepchild in a divorce?

My wife left me and is with another man. We have a child who is not mine biologically but I’m her step father.

Asked on January 12, 2011 under Family Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

No, and yes.

No in that a step father does  not have his own rights to the stepchild; regardless of how emotionally important or valid the child-stepfather bond, a step father is not legally the parent, the way a biological or adoptive parent is.

Yes, in that courts will take a child's best interests into account when crafting custody and visitation orders, and have often, for example, mandated that grand parents or other non-parental relatives be allowed to visit or have contact with a child. Therefore, while a step parent would very likely not gain custody, absent perhaps very exceptional circumstances (parent ruled unfit; no other blood or legal relatives who could care  for  the child; step parent made legal guardian), it's possibly you could at least be given some visitation rights if it's in the child's interest. You should discuss this with a family law attorney.


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