Can Step-Parents Have A Legal Say Over Their Step-Child After Separation?
Posted on 5th May 2020
It is recognised that families are not a “one size, fits all” situation: the ‘ideal’ family, of 2.1 children and a dog, as it turns out, does not exist. When a stepparent enters a family unit, they develop a unique relationship with their stepchild; they became another parent, in all but name. But what rights does a stepparent have once a relationship ends?
Recently the solicitors in the family department at MG Legal Lancaster, took on a file case in which a stepparent wanted their stepchild to remain in their care and to be the main caregiver for their stepchild. The client had been in the child’s life since they were very young and in the child’s eyes our client was the only stable parent they knew.
Our client was the one that cared for the child, that helped the child with their homework, looked after them when they were poorly, and attend all meeting in relation to the child’s school. Upon separation from the child’s biologically parent, the child was removed from our child’s care, and informed they would not see each other again. Not only causing stress to the child that suffered from separation issues, but stress to our client who had raised the child as their own.
Fortunately, the client made the decision to contact our Family Team who helped to complete the relevant paperwork to secure them parental responsibility for the child and ultimately, the child was successfully returned to our client’s care with a Child Arrangement’s Order pending.
This raises the question for stepparents in the same or similar situations, after separation from the child’s biological parent are they, the step parent, able to apply for contact with the child?
Just because a stepparent is living or married to a biologically parent it does not automatically give them parental responsibility for any stepchildren, in fact in order to be granted parental responsibility they have the apply to Court. The application may need to be approved by the biological parents, and a Judge will review the application to ensure that granting the Parental Responsibility to a stepparent is in the child’s best interest. If you have lived with the child for over three years then you do not need permission from the Court to apply for Parental Responsibility, however if you have been in the child’s life for a period less than three years then an application for permission will be required.
As with our client above, if you are granted Parental Responsibility you are then able to make decisions in relation to the child’s upbringing, school and medical care and can apply for a Child Arrangements Order. The applicant can be refused by the Court is they do not believe that that you remain in the in the child’s life is in their best interest, however each case is judged individually.
Unfortunately, not every case is the same and whereas our client mentioned has secured a happy ending, as previously advised each is different and the applicant personal situation will be reviewed upon application.
If you as a stepparent wish to discuss your rights with our Family Department then please do not hesitate to set up a 30 minutes initial consultation with us by calling us on 01524 581306 or by completing our online form here.
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