As a non-biological parent during or after a divorce, you do have certain rights to remain connected to your children. There are situations in which the non-biological parent can even gain custody of the children from their previous marriage. This is where a family lawyer in Indiana can help.

It is not at all uncommon for non-biological children to become very attached to their step-father or mother, and visa-versa. Your children, although not “blood” related, come to see you as their mother or father in all sense of the word. In cases such as this, it would be highly traumatic to the child to be separated from a step-parent they have come to love and whose relationship they require.

Most states, in any given divorce situation, place the well-being of the child as their main point of reference for any singular decision. The court considers a non-biological parent to have parental rights if they can show the court that they should be considered the child’s legal parent. A legal parent is a parental role that gives a non-biological step-parent all of the same parental rights as a biological parent.

Some of the considerations that may help determine if a non-biological step-parent may be considered a legal parent are:

  • The step-parent voluntarily assumed the role of the child’s parent.
  • They have officially adopted the child.
  • The child was born during their marriage to the mother (but they are not the biological father).
  • They signed the child’s birth certificate.

Some non-biological parents (or step-parents) fully assume the role of parent to the child and that the child views the relationship in the same way. Cases like these can be complex, as it is usually difficult (but not impossible) for the courts to override the wishes of the biological parent.

If you are serious about your continued visitation or other rights as a step-parent, it is highly advisable to consult with a Lake county family law attorney. Proving the importance of your relationship between you and the child is legally detailed, and your family law attorney will help you immensely in getting the best results possible.

What Other Rights Do I Have as a Non-Biological Parent?

Even if you are not a biological parent, you certainly can be granted certain parental rights. One of the most important to you (and the child) may be consistent visitation rights, but helping with the schooling, the mental health of the child, and many other aspects of their well-being are also vital.

All visitation decisions, and mostly all ramifications of your continued relationship, are made by the court and based on the best interests of the child. The courts consider a series of factors when determining a child’s best interest.

The factors considered usually include:

  • The emotional development and physical needs of your child.
  • The age of your child.
  • Your child’s need for stability with their schooling, activities, and living situation.
  • The strength and length of time of your step-parent/child relationship.
  • Any evidence of abuse or domestic violence for either parent or step-parent.
  •  If the child is old enough, the child’s wishes may be very important.

The step-parent’s gender is generally not a factor in any decisions made on their behalf. So visitation rights and all other wishes or rights of the non-biological parent is always dependent on what is best for the mental, physical, and overall well-being of the child involved. As detailed as this process sounds, your family law attorney will help compile all the needed information and documents to present your case professionally.

As a Step-Parent is it Possible to Have the Same Rights as a Biological Parent?

Indiana law is in a mild state of transition regarding this question, but only parents and step-parents are generally awarded visitation rights if they do not get physical custody. The Indiana Court of Appeals has recently concluded that visitation rights can also be applied to a former domestic partner.

In most cases, step-parents that even have joint custody arrangements have fewer rights than biological parents. While step-parents definitely can receive legal rights about their step-child, doing so often requires navigating a legal arrangement with at least one (and often both) of the child’s biological parents.

In a strictly legal sense, stepchildren have no actual legal connection with step-parents, either current or previous. Only if a step-parent adopts a stepchild does the relationship take on legal rights and responsibilities.

For example, as a step-parent, you most likely won’t have the legal jurisdiction to make decisions for your stepchild. This means you cannot legally give consent for your stepchild’s medical care, sign their school forms (e.g., permission slips), or attend school functions. This may sound contrary to some of the facts previously discussed, but just outlines the strictly legal view of the court. Recall that the court will almost always defer to the dictum that pertains to your relationship with your child and their overall well-being and mental health.

Can a Family Law Attorney Help Me?

As a child’s step-parent, you may have been involved in your child’s life for years. The bond you’ve forged is strong and beneficial to both of you. Breaking those bonds can be just as detrimental to the child as the loss of a beloved biological parent. Children usually don’t consider DNA when considering the love and dependence they have with their step-parent. It has no bearing on their feelings, and in their mind, they are just losing a parent.

Legally though, that is not always the way the court looks at it. If you are a non-biological parent hoping for visitation and a continued relationship with your child, it is in your best interests to consult with a family law firm. The law office of Julie R. Glade, R.N., J.D. will represent you with empathy and be invaluable in proving to the court that your visitation and continued relationship is in your child’s best interests.