You and your partner have decided to go separate ways, but your stepchildren still need you. Do you have any rights after the divorce?
There are no longer ties between the family trees of you and your stepchildren, and adoption may not have been a possibility. This doesn’t mean you’re out of luck when it comes to staying in their lives, even if their biological parents have other ideas. You could get visitation rights or even full custody, despite missing those genetic or legal ties.
When looking at custody, courts will often start with the wishes of the birth parents. If both biological parents agree you should keep access to the children, then your path will be pretty painless. Matters can get tricky when you lose the favor of one or both parents.
Where things go will depend on where you live and the relationship between you and the children. While some states say that stepparents have no rights after a divorce, North Carolina gives you the option to sue for visitation or custody.
Courts look to understand the role you’ve had in the lives of the children to decide your level of relationship. There are a few basic questions that will start to show how important it is that you aren’t kept from the kids:
- How involved have you been with the children?
- Were you included in major decisions affecting the children?
- How close is your relationship?
- How long have you been in the picture?
- Have you provided financial support?
The bottom line to these questions is, how much will it hurt the children if you aren’t allowed to be a part of their lives? This is usually the most important thing that judges consider and can give you an edge over the birth parent’s wishes. An experienced family law attorney can look at your involvement, and help you decide how to best proceed with your case.