Does a Stepparent Have Any Legal Rights?
Before the Equitable Caregiver Act was signed into law, stepparents were not afforded visitation and custody rights under the law. Unless you legally adopt your stepchild, you may not be given any legal right to visit or stay in contact with the child they’ve raised as their own for many years.
While informal parenting arrangements enable some stepparents to stay in the lives of their stepchildren, others don’t have any legal recourse if the child’s biological parent denies them visitation time following a separation or divorce.
Fortunately, the Act recognizes that other qualified individuals other than the biological parents of the child may be afforded certain rights. Apart from stepparents, the Act likewise applies to domestic partners, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other interested parties.
How Can a Stepparent Become an Equitable Caregiver?
To become an official equitable caregiver of a stepchild, the court must first determine whether you are an equitable caregiver of your stepchild by establishing whether:
- You consistently took care of your stepchild.
- You have fully taken a responsible, permanent, unequivocal, and dedicated parental role in your step child's
- You have taken on permanent and full responsibilities as your stepchild’s parent without expecting monetary compensation.
- You have established a dependent and bonded relationship with your stepchild, and the child’s other parent supported and fostered this relationship and completely understood, accepted, or behaved that you are a parent to your stepchild.
The court must likewise determine whether your stepchild would suffer emotional or physical harm and that fostering the relationship with your stepchild is in the child’s best interests based on the following factors:
- Who are the child’s present and past caretakers
- Whether the child has developed a safe and secure emotional bond with the stepparent and the strength of that bond
- Whether the child has specific psychological or medical requirements that one of the parents is better equipped to handle than the other
- Whether competing or other individuals have had contact or showed an interest in caring for the child over time
It’s also vital to note that if the child’s other parent and the stepparent seeking equitable care status enter into a written agreement stating that they wish to share caregiving responsibilities, the court may grant the stepparent equitable caregiver status if it determines that it’s in the child’s best interests. Once you have equitable caregiver status, the court will establish your parental responsibilities and rights, which include visitation and custody, among others.
Get In Touch With an Experienced Cumming, GA, Family Law Lawyer Now
Whether you are considering pursuing custody or visitation rights or want to dispute your ex’s petition, you can count on Banks, Stubbs & McFarland for legal advice. You can call our Cumming office at 770-887-1209 or reach us online to set up a free evaluation of your case with our Cumming, GA, family law lawyer to find out more about your legal rights as a stepparent and how you can exercise them effectively.