What Rights Do Stepparents Have?
Regarding legal rights, stepparents do not have any rights as parents. Parental rights are typically isolated to the child’s biological or adoptive parents and/or a legally appointed guardian. However, this doesn’t mean that stepparents don’t and can’t have a meaningful role in their stepchildren’s lives. That said, becoming a stepparent is a big shift, and the road to a good relationship may not be easy.
Below we look at how stepparents can develop healthy, positive relationships with their stepchildren, even if their other parent is still present in their lives.
For more information, review our blog, “Do Stepparents Have Rights in Colorado?”
Understand Your Role Within the Family
To begin your role as a stepparent on the right foot, it is crucial that you understand your role within your family as it relates to child-rearing. We recommend having multiple conversations about this with your partner (and the children’s other parent, if appropriate), and outlining what responsibilities you will have regarding the children and their care when they are in your home.
Things to discuss include:
- Will you be responsible for taking them anywhere?
- Will you be responsible for attending school meetings, doctor’s appointments, etc.?
- What is your role when it comes to discipline?
- Will you be expected to communicate with your child’s other parent, and if so, what are the boundaries surrounding that communication?
Going into being a stepparent with clear expectations can help circumvent common misunderstandings and other issues. For example, do you know what to do if your new spouse is at work and the school calls because one of the children is sick? Are you authorized to pick them up and take them to the doctor, or will you be expected to contact their other parent?
Discuss How Disputes Will Be Resolved
As with all families, and especially blended families, disputes may arise. As a new family member, you must learn to incorporate new routines and responsibilities into your daily life. You may also be living in a new home. Just as you are adjusting to your new life, so too are your stepchildren, your new spouse, and your stepchildren’s other parent. This situation can be stressful, at times overwhelming, and chaotic.
Knowing what to do when problems arise is incredibly helpful and can lead to a faster resolution to the dispute. For example, if you and your spouse and their co-parent disagree on how to manage a behavioral issue with one of the children, what steps will you take to work through that disagreement? While some dispute resolution methods may be lined out in your spouse’s parenting plan, it is worth discussing how you fit into this dynamic and what to do if a dispute arises that involves you and your role within the family.
Don’t Rush the Process
Developing a strong stepparent relationship with your stepchildren takes time. Do not try to push things too quickly. Give your stepchildren the space they need to get to know and feel comfortable with you. Depending on the circumstances of their parent’s separation or divorce, they may be hesitant to accept a new parental figure. It is usually recommended that stepparents take their lead from their stepchildren. Pay attention to their boundaries, listen to them, and avoid trying to replace their other parent.
Remember, just as this process is difficult for you, it is doubly difficult for the children involved. If you or your stepchildren are struggling, it may be worth attending individual or family counseling. Therapy can provide much-needed support to parents and children and may help your family through this difficult transition.
There are familial situations in which one of a child’s biological parents is no longer in the picture. This can happen for several reasons. When it does happen, stepparents often step up and fill the void left behind in the child’s life. When this happens, stepparents, their spouse, and their stepchildren may want to recognize the significant role the stepparent makes in the child’s life by moving forward with a stepparent adoption.
Before a stepparent adoption occurs, the child’s biological parent must give up their parental rights (or the court must terminate them). This is unnecessary if a child’s biological parent has passed away. The stepparent must also be married to the child’s custodial parent.
Stepparent adoption is a beautiful thing. It is also legally binding. After adoption, it will be as if the stepparent is the child’s biological parent, and they will assume all rights and responsibilities as such. We recommend that any family considering stepparent adoption in Colorado speak with an experienced family law attorney, like ours, at the Law Office of Greg Quimby, P.C. Our attorney can help you through the process so that it is taken care of correctly and sensitively.
If you are a parent and planning to remarry, or you are a stepparent and have questions about your legal rights and responsibilities, reach out to the Law Office of Greg Quimby, P.C. for help. Our attorneys are standing by to help you and your family today.