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3 legal facts about being a step parent

The idea of what constitutes a family has undergone some serious evolution. The modern family comes in all shapes and sizes. There’s no right or wrong, there’s just family. And in today’s society, step parents often have a much bigger role to play in a child’s life.


Being a stepparent is a wonderful thing. But it’s not always as simple as you might think. Here we’re taking a look at three legal facts about being a stepparent that it’s really worth knowing.



You’re not a step parent unless you’re married to the biological parent.


You’re not legally classed as a step parent unless you’re married to, or have been married to, the biological parent. Even if you live with your step child, even if that’s what your step children call you, in legal terms it isn’t the case.


This can be incredibly difficult if a separation occurs, as it’s not uncommon for you and your step children to consider one another as family.


Step parents don’t have an automatic right to contact


Ultimately, when a divorce or separation happens, it all boils down to what’s in the best interests of the children involved. If a step parent and child want to continue contact, but it’s opposed by the biological parent, then it’s possible for them to make an application to the court for a Child Arrangements Order. If the court believes this contact is in the best interests of the child, then it’s possible that the request will be granted. However, it’s very important to remember that each case will be judged on its individual circumstances. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s advisable to seek the assistance of a family solicitor.


Sometimes, mediation may be needed to come to an agreement about how this will take place and what the future looks like. As always, the decision will be based on what will be the most beneficial to the child.


Stepparents can’t be forced to pay maintenance

I

n the simplest terms, under the Child Support Act 1991, stepparents can’t be forced to pay child maintenance. However, as with most things, it’s not always that simple.


There are some instances where a stepparent will be required to pay maintenance, for example where that child has been treated as a ‘child of the family’ (as per the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973). However, as stated above, it’s always best to seek independent legal advice as to whether this would apply to your own particular situation.


A note about Parental responsibility

Having Parental Responsibility for a child means that you have all of the legal rights and responsibilities in respect of them. For example, making decisions in respect of healthcare, education and the other important things in their life. Stepparents don’t have Parental responsibility, even if they’re married to the child’s biological parent.


In some instances, it’s possible for stepparents to obtain Parental Responsibility.


For example, if:


  • A child arrangements order is applied for and made by the court

  • Adoption of the child by the stepparent

  • A Parental Responsibility Agreement is signed by everyone who currently holds parental responsibility for the child (usually the biological mother and father)


Contact at The Starting Point Centre


At Starting Point, our priority is always the children. No matter the family dynamic, we want the children to get the meaningful contact they need with the people that matter to them.


For a contact centre that cares, get in touch with Starting Point today, and let’s see how we can help.