You are getting a divorce and there is a stepchild involved. What happens now?
From a legal standpoint, parents and stepparents play different roles and therefore, have different rights in the event that they divorce. This is particularly true if a stepparent has not legally adopted the stepchild. However, Tennessee law still recognizes the importance of the relationship between a stepparent and stepchild. As such, in the event the stepparent divorces the biological parent, he or she still retains certain rights.
The courts do not always automatically recognize these rights. It is important any stepparent going through a divorce retains the help of an experienced Manchester family attorney that can ensure his or her rights are upheld.
Preference for Placement
Sometimes, a child must be removed from the home of a biological parent. In these cases, the home of the other biological parent may be unsuitable, or the parent’s whereabouts may be unknown. When this is the case, stepparents have a preference for placement. This means that if they wish, they may allow the child to stay in their home. Due to their preference for placement, the stepparent must be asked before the child is placed in the foster care system.
Preference for Adoption
In cases in which the stepparent feels as though the biological parent is not providing adequate support for the child, they may petition the courts to adopt the child. As in all adoptions in Tennessee, in order to do this, the natural parent’s rights must first be terminated. Sometimes the biological parent will agree to this and allow the adoption to take place. When they do not, the stepparent must ask the courts to terminate the other parent’s right. They must also present evidence that the natural parent cannot properly provide for the child.
In the event that the stepparent and biological parent of the child divorce, the stepparent typically has visitation rights. The courts will consider if visitation is in the child’s best interests, as they always do in visitation and custody hearings. A few of the factors a judge will consider when deciding on visitation rights include:
The relationship between the stepparent and child
The emotional needs of the child for their developmental stage
If the stepparent has acted as the primary caregiver
The ability of the stepparent to provide for the child’s needs
The stepparent’s fitness as a parent
History of domestic violence
The work schedule of the stepparent and biological parents
The child’s preference, if they are at least 12 years old
If the court finds it is in the child’s best interests to continue seeing the stepparent on a regular basis, and the stepparent has provided or contributed to the support of the child, they will grant visitation rights.
Our Tennessee Family Lawyers will Ensure Your Rights are Upheld
If you are getting a divorce and there is a stepchild involved, you are likely very concerned about how the divorce will affect your relationship. At Burch & Lockhart, we are the Manchester family lawyers that will fight to ensure your rights are upheld so you can still see your stepchild after divorce. Call us today at (931) 723-7997 or contact us online for your free consultation to learn more about how we can help.