Family law recognizes that the nature and structure of families are very different today than it was five decades ago, or even one decade ago. The role of a stepparent in the life of a minor child is part of these changes. A stepparent can develop a strong relationship with a stepchild. The problem occurs when the stepparent and parent end their relationship, and as such, what happens to the relationship with the stepchild? Does the stepparent have rights?
Rights and limits of those rights vary state by state. At Rogers & Rogers, PC, our stepparent rights attorney represents clients in Pennsylvania and helps them understand what their rights are as well as the limitations on those rights. In the end, it's our goal to do what's in the best interest of the child, which ultimately is about having strong relationships with everyone who cares about the child. Contact us online or at (412) 434-7500 to learn more about your rights as a stepparent in Pittsburgh today.
What Rights Do Stepparents Have in Pittsburgh?
Stepparent rights vary greatly from state to state. The disparities between the different jurisdictions render it impossible to provide a blanket definition of what rights a stepparent has. It is clear that stepparents, just by virtue of being a stepparent, are not conferred any legal status as a guardian and do not have the same right to make legal decisions for the child as a parent.
Stepparents and Visitation
In cases where the biological parent and the stepparent divorce, some states specifically allow stepparents to petition for visitation. Other states lack any laws addressing the right to visitation, and will rule on a case by case basis. All states, however, hold the best interest of the child paramount.
Troxel vs. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000) is a major case that impacts the rights of stepparents and their ability to have visitation with their stepchildren. This case holds that parents have a right to limit visitation of their children with third persons. In other words, a stepparent does not have any rights if and when the biological parent objects. Instead, the biological parent has a fundamental and constitutional right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.
Parental Preference Rule
Many jurisdictions recognize the parental preference rule, which gives biological parents priority when determining child custody. In order for a non-biological parent to obtain custody, they must prove that the biological parent(s) is/are unfit.
Other Possible Rights
Many laws provide stepparents with other rights. For example, they may be given preference for placement in foster care in the event the child is removed from the homes of their biological parents. Again, to know what your rights are exactly, it's important to contact a stepparent rights attorney in Pennsylvania.
Stepparents and Adoption in Pennsylvania
It is possible for stepparents to adopt their stepchildren. In most jurisdictions, in order to adopt a stepchild, a stepparent must have the permission of their spouse and the child's other biological parent. The consent of the child's other biological parent is not necessary when their parental rights have been terminated by the court or the court considers them to have abandoned the child.
If the stepparent is successful in having the court approve the adoption, they are no longer considered to be a stepparent, but a legal parent with the same rights as a biological parent. These rights do not terminate if the former stepparent and the biological parent later divorce.
Contact a Family Law Lawyer for Stepparent Rights in Pennsylvania
If you are a stepparent and you have questions about your rights to your stepchildren, it is in your best interest to seek the advice of a family law attorney licensed in your state. They will know the laws of your jurisdiction and can explain how they affect your situation. Also, if you decide to pursue visitation or custody of your stepchildren, you will likely need their assistance to properly proceed with the process.
At Rogers & Rogers, PC, we advise stepparents wanting to learn more about their rights in Pennsylvania. Contact us using our online form or call us at (412) 434-7500 to schedule a Free Initial Consultation.