Step-parenting Requires a "Learn As You Go" Approach

Society provides limited reasonable expectations for stepfamilies, says Aronsohn. "Stepparents find themselves learning as they proceed, since there no guides for step parenting. Also there are problematic and potential painful legal issues to consider regarding custody, support and estates because "in the eyes of the law, the statues of parenthood [are] generally restricted to biological and adoptive parents."

These "painful legal issues" support, visitation, adoption, often infiltrate the step relationship and make for difficulties. Stepparents have nowhere near the legal standing of natural parents. The stepfamily exists in a legal netherworld, where stepparents find themselves legal strangers to children they must try to, if not parent, then at least supervise. Mary Ann Mason, Arlene Skolnick and Stephen D. Sugarman, in their book "All Our Families", describe the "poorly formed concept of the role of stepparents" in American life. They write:

"[T]he contrast between the legal status of stepparents and the presumptive rights and obligations of natural parents is remarkable. Child support obligations, custody rights, and inheritance rights exist between children and their natural parents by virtue of a biological tie alone, regardless of the quality of social or emotional bonds between parent and child, and regardless of whether the parents are married. In recent years policy changes have extended the rights and obligations of natural parents, particularly in regard to unwed and divorced parents, but have not advanced with regard to stepparents. Stepparents in most states have no obligation during the marriage to support their stepchildren, nor do they enjoy any right of custody or control. Consistent with this pattern, if the marriage terminates through divorce or death, they usually have no rights to custody or even visitation, however long-standing their relationship with their stepchildren. Conversely, stepparents have no obligation to pay child support following divorce, even if their stepchildren have depended on their income for many years. In turn, stepchildren have no right of inheritance in the event of the stepparent’s death (they are, however, eligible for Social Security benefits in most cases)."

In her review of state law applying to stepparents and stepchildren, in "Still a Patchwork Quilt," Susan L. Pollet says that "[t]he results of our research show that of the states that have statutory language that specifically refer to stepparents, 8 states have statutes regarding their custody rights, 11 states have statutes regarding their visitation rights, 15 states have statutes regarding their child support obligations, and 44 states have statutes regarding their adoption rights. Of the states that have statutory language referring to the rights of third parties, 20 states have statutes regarding their custody rights, 13 states have statutes regarding their visitation rights, 3 states have statutes regarding their child support obligations, and 6 states have statutes regarding their adoption rights. We also researched the inheritance rights of stepchildren and found that 19 states have statutory language regarding their inheritance rights if their stepparent dies intestate.

"Additionally, some of the states that do not have statutory language regarding stepparents have case law pertaining to stepparents. We researched further and noted the following: 5 states have case law regarding their custody rights, 12 states have case law regarding their visitation rights, 19 states have case law regarding their child support obligations, and 2 states have case law regarding inheritance rights. Moreover, of the states that have case law pertaining to third parties, 4 states have case law regarding their custody rights, 3 states have case law regarding their visitation rights and 1 state has case law regarding child support obligations."



Useful Online Tools

Suggested Reading
Creating a Successful Parenting Plan Creating a Successful Parenting Plan
This extraordinary book and computer disk offers separating or divorcing parents a sure-fire way to create a workable, practical parenting plan/agreement that is in the best interest of their children.

Author: Jayne A. Major, Ph.D.


Recent Related Blog Posts
    All Parenting Blog Posts

Related Article Archives
Custody & Visitation
Parental Alienation
    All Article Archives

Related Categories
Children & Divorce
Child Relocation
Collect & Paying Child Support
    All Categories
Related Forums
Child Custody
Child Removal
Child Support
Helping Children
Parenting
Stepfamily Issues
    All Forums

Resources & Tools

Bookstore Promotion Discount

Start Your Divorce Online Start Your Divorce
Several Options to Get Started Today.
Divorce Tools Online Divorce Tools
Keeping it Simple to Get the Job Done.
Divorce Downloads Download Center
Instantly Download Books, Guides & Forms.
Divorce and Custody Books Discount Books
Over 100 of the Best Divorce & Custody Books.
Negotiate Online Negotiate Online
Settle your Divorce and Save.
Custody and Support Tracking Custody Scheduling
Make Sure You Document Everything.
   
GOOD COMMUNICATION – For two divorced parents to successfully co-parent, peaceful, consistent, and purposeful communication is essential. The purpose of the communication is the well-being of the child. This begins by setting a business-like tone.
Custody Scheduling and Tracking

Children In Between - Online Parenting Class

Easily Connect With a Lawyer or Mediator
Have Divorce Professionals from Your Area Contact You!
Enter Your Zip Code:

 

Online Parenting Plans

Online Parenting Plans

3StepParentingPlanTM uses cutting-edge online software to create your Parenting Plan. Using a smart question-and-answer application, 3StepParentingPlanTM gets you a fully customized Parenting Plan in a little more than half of a lawyerŐs billable hour.

View Children & Divorce Resources in Our Online Bookstore

Guarantee Official PayPal Seal Facebook Twitter Versign Secure Site
Limited Offer Women's Rights Manual For Divorce
Cover Price: $55.95
Your Price: $29.95
You Save: $26.00

"The Absolute Best Investment in Your Divorce"

Men's Rights Manual For Divorce
Cover Price: $55.95
Your Price: $29.95
You Save: $26.00

"Uncover Your Options and Unleash Solutions"