For stepparents who are separating, understanding their rights as they pertain to stepchild visitation can be confusing. Call an experienced lawyer to learn more today.
When a person gets married, sometimes, they are not just marrying their chosen spouse, but the spouse’s family, too. It is not uncommon for a person to have a child or children from a previous marriage, resulting in a new stepparent and stepchild relationship. Over the years, stepparents and their stepchildren may form unique, close, and deep bonds. When this is the case and the stepparent and the child’s biological parent decide to divorce, the separation can be extremely taxing on all parties involved. For a stepparent who is not a child’s biological parent, divorce might also mean losing custody and visitation time. If you are a stepparent in New Jersey, our stepparents’ rights lawyers at the office of Lomurro Law can help you. Call our law firm today to learn more about your rights.
Does a Stepparent Have Any Legal Rights?
A stepparent does not always have legal rights to seek custody of a child or seek visitation with a child, nor do they always have any rights related to legal decision-making power in regard to a child. This means that when a couple divorces, a stepparent will not be considered for parental responsibilities in the same way that a biological parent will be considered, and the “best interests of the child” standard that is used in cases involving two parents who both have established legal parental status will not be used. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, such as when the stepparent does have legal parental status as a result of a stepchild adoption, or in psychological parenting cases.
Third-Party Visitation and Custody
While stepparents are not always considered for custody or visitation in New Jersey, there are some cases in which third parties, including stepparents, do have grounds to seek visitation with or custody of a child. However, the legal standard, as mentioned above, is not the “best interests of the child” standard that is used in most child custody cases; instead, the standard is more rigorous - a stepparent must prove that terminating visitation and the relationship with the child would cause harm to the child. The court’s decision in K.A.F. v. D.L.M found that even in the case that there are two fit (biological) parents, a stepparent may still be allowed to seek custody or visitation because otherwise “a court would be powerless to avert harm to a child through the severance of the child’s parental bond with a third party,” recognizing that a person who lives with and cares for a child develops such a bond.
Learn More About Stepparents’ Rights in New Jersey
Understanding your rights as a stepparent in our state can be confusing. But at the law office of Lomurro Law, our New Jersey stepparents’ rights and family law attorneys can help. We know that for many stepparents, a stepchild is loved no differently than a biological child would be, and that severing that relationship can be painful for both parties. If you are getting a divorce and have questions about visitation with your stepchild, call our lawyers today for a consultation.