What Rights Do Step-Parents Have?

man with child in his arms

To be a step-parent means that you have married or entered a Civil Partnership with one of the child’s biological parents. But, what rights do you have as a step-parent when it comes to your legal responsibilities for the child, or if the relationship breaks down? 
Our expert family lawyers at Neil Kilcoyne & Co Solicitors explain step by step your rights as a step-parent.

What are Step-Parent’s Rights?

Being a step-parent does not mean that you automatically have any rights or obligations relating to the child of the biological parent in the relationship. This is regardless of how much involvement you have in their day-to-day care or if you make a financial contribution to their upbringing. The biological parent is the one that retains the ‘Parental Responsibility’ and has the right to say in the upbringing of the child. 

However, obtaining Parental Responsibility may be important if you have day-to-day care of your partner’s child, especially if they are away for long periods of time and another person needs to be available to make important decisions. This could be if consent is required to give medical treatment for the child.

How a Step-Parent Can Obtain Parental Responsibility If Required

There are two conditions for obtaining a step-parent Parental Responsibility Agreement. Firstly, you must be married to the biological parent with whom the child lives with, and secondly, you must have the signed consent of every person with Parental Responsibility for the child, which includes their other biological parent. 

Once you have been granted Parental Responsibility, you have the same legal rights, duties, and responsibilities as a birth parent.

What If The Other Biological Parent Won’t Agree to the Step-Parent Parental Responsibility Agreement?

It can be a difficult to think about sharing Parental Responsibility with a former spouse and their new partner, as it may be viewed as an attempt to marginalise them in their own child’s life. However, if they are not forthcoming, but you and your new spouse believe that having step-parent Parent Responsibility is in the child’s best interests, you can apply for a court order.

What Options Does a Step-Parent Have for Retaining Contact with a Child After Divorce?

If you and your spouse decide to divorce, and you have Parental Responsibility over their child, you have a couple of options should you decide that you want to keep seeing the child. 

  • Mediation = The step-parent and biological parent attend mediation before initiating the court process, with the aim to resolve any issues between the two parties. If this is unsuccessful the step-parent can resort to court intervention. 
  • Court Proceedings = A step-parent can apply for a Child Arrangement Order which will decide where the child is to live and whom they spend their time with. Those involved in the proceedings will take into account all the relevant circumstances before making a decision.

A Step-Parent’s Position on the Death of the Child’s Biological Parent

If you are a step-parent and have Parental Responsibility and should in the situation that your spouse (the child’s biological parent) dies, then that Parental Responsibility will remain. You will continue to have Parental Responsibility and if the child’s other biological parent also has Parental Responsibility, then the two of you continue to share it. 

If there is no dispute between you and the other surviving biological parent, you will continue to have care of the child. However, if there is a dispute, then the matter of where the child should live needs to be decided by the court.

Can a Stepchild Live With Me Instead of Their Biological Parent?

There can be circumstances where your stepchild’s biological parents are unable to look after them, and it is agreed that they should live with you, as their step-parent. Or, you believe that your stepchild is better off living with you after a separation, and you wish to pursue that.

Contact Our Family Lawyers in Glasgow

Our family law solicitors are expert within the field and can provide legal advice if you are a step-parent wanting to acquire Parental Responsibility. Contact us today, and we can help you every step of the way.


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