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

UPDATED: Jan 12, 2011

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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