Being a stepparent is no simple task. Children will eventually rebel against their parents, and stepparents are easy targets. Unfortunately, stepparents are often caught in the middle, or left in the dark, when it comes to decisions involving their stepchildren.
Stepparents do have some rights, but those rights are typically limited to what the legal parents allow.
Below, you'll find five of the top legal questions stepparents ask about their rights.
1. Can I Make Medical Decisions for My Stepchild?
Unfortunately, a stepparent cannot make medical decisions on behalf of a stepchild because a stepparent is not legally recognized as the child's parent. A stepparent may have legal authorization to make medical decisions, if there is a written parenting agreement between the legal parents and the stepparent allowing certain decisions to be made.
2. Can I Discipline My Stepchild?
While a stepparent may not be a legal parent, disciplining a child is perfectly legal (so long as it doesn't involve excessive corporal punishment). Unless the discipline crosses the line, a stepparent should have the authority and support of their partner to discipline.
3. Can I Send My Stepchild to Boarding School?
Legally, a stepparent cannot make decisions about a stepchild's education without the authorization of the actual parent. Like medical decisions, where to enroll a child in school is a legal decision a parent gets to make.
4. Do I Have to Pay Child Support for My Stepchild?
While stepparents may not be legally required to pay child support for a stepchild, if their partner is liable for it, there's not much difference. However, it should be noted that a stepparent's financial status should not have an impact on their partner's child support obligations, nor will they be ordered to pay support, unless their partner stops working in order to avoid the obligation.
5. Can I Adopt My Stepchild?
A stepparent can adopt their stepchild, though doing so can often be a contentious matter. This is because to adopt, the other legal parent has to fully terminate their parental rights, which is something most parents are unwilling to do.
- Find Family Law Attorneys Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory)
- Stepparent Legal FAQ in Divorce (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- The Legal Rights of Stepparents (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- Kids Are More Likely to Get Sick If Divorced Parents Don't Talk (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)