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Stepparent Rights and Obligations in New Jersey

Stepparents have one of the toughest jobs in the world. Stepping into the shoes of a child’s parent, even if it’s only part-time, is basically an impossible task.

Children of any age who have a relationship with each of their birth parents have to find different role for a stepparent in their lives. Naturally, they aren’t conscious of the underlying complexity of another semi-parental relationship, but you are, as the stepparent.

Starting and managing a stepparent relationship is tough enough, but ending it can be even more difficult to navigate in terms of the feelings and the legal issues involved.

Sadly, when there’s a divorce involving a stepparent the best interests of the stepchildren are not often top-of-mind for the birth parent or the stepparent. Nobody usually has a sharp focus on continuity of relationship, and that includes the divorce court judge.

If you have legally adopted one or more stepchildren you will have custody and child support obligations considered in your divorce process. But if you want to continue a relationship with children you have not adopted, and you are or will be divorced from the birth parent of those children you can get help from a family lawyer in New Jersey.

Neither statute nor case law in the state of New Jersey specifically outlines the rights and responsibilities of a stepparent, which means there really are none unless you get legal custody or visitation privileges in the divorce decree.

Without the benefit of stipulated custody or visitation a stepparent has virtually no rights to interact with a child. And even with those court-ordered benefits in place, school officials and doctors are not obligated to treat a stepparent the same as a child’s parents. You may not have information or access you need to take care of a child in your custody.

In New Jersey there are cases that can help you get custody or visitation with stepchildren; even though most involve blood-related grandparents a court can apply them to a stepparent as a “third party” adult who has a relationship with the children.

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