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Tennessee General Law Blog

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Do Step Parents Ever Have Rights in a Divorce?

While the function of a family has always been to love and support one another, the form has changed over the past few decades. With the high number of divorced or single parents and the high rate of remarriage, step parents often play a significant and meaningful role in today’s homes. They often form close and loving bonds with children who are not biologically their own, and if the marriage fails, it can be devastating both for the step parent and the child involved. Fortunately, Tennessee does provide rights to step parents going through a divorce in which child custody is a factor. This can help defend and protect the relationship between a step parent and step child, while allowing them to continue to spend time together.

Step Parents and Divorce

While blended families were once less common and step parents were inclined to get a bad rap, the situation has transformed over the years. According to Pew Research Center , 40% of all US citizens report having at least one ‘step’ relative, such as a half sibling. In nearly half of these cases, it is a step parent.

Step parents can provide both financial security and emotional stability in a child’s life. In situations in which a birth parent is absent or deceased, the step parent may officially adopt the child. In other cases, the step parent simply acts as another caring, supportive adult in the child’s life.

Unfortunately, no family is immune to marital problems. For blended families, if one of the parties files for divorce, the step parent’s rights to continue being a part of the child’s life could be in jeopardy. Fortunately, that is not the case in Tennessee.

Asserting Your Rights as a Step Parent

Step parents who legally adopt a child are automatically treated in the same manner as a biological parent in terms of their rights in child custody proceedings. However, even for step parents who do not have legal adoption papers, the law recognizes the importance of their relationship with the child and has taken the steps needed to protect it.

Under Section 36-6-303 of the Tennessee Code , in any lawsuit filed seeking an annulment, divorce, or separate maintenance while a divorce action is pending, a step parent has the right to be granted reasonable visitation with the child. This is provided the following is true:

Reach Out to Our Manchester Divorce Attorneys

If you are a step parent going through a divorce or separation, Burch, Morrison, & Stewart can provide the trusted legal guidance and professional representation you need. Reach out and call or contact our Manchester divorce attorneys online and request a consultation today to discuss how we can assist you.

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