Can Stepparents Have Custody Rights in a Divorce?
Stepparents often grow very close to their stepchildren. In fact, a stepparent can build as strong a bond as any parent, and this can make divorce that much more painful. A divorce can leave a stepparent with no legal parental or visitation rights related to his or her stepchildren. If you are a stepparent who is afraid of losing your right to continue parenting your stepchildren after divorce, an experienced Kansas family law attorney can help.
Stepchildren and Adoption
A stepparent who adopts his or her spouse’s children while married naturally has the same rights in divorce as any parent does. A child cannot legally, however, have more than two parents, so in order to adopt a stepchild, the child’s other biological parent must agree to give up all parental rights. Only in extreme circumstances will a court terminate a biological parent’s rights. Unless you’ve already adopted your stepchildren at the time of divorce, however, your legal ties to your stepchildren will be severed with divorce. You might, however, have legal recourse.
Right to Visitation
Kansas statutes allow stepparents to have visitation rights if it is in the best interest of the children involved. There are several factors that may increase your chances of obtaining a visitation schedule with your stepchildren, including:
- If you were married to the children’s biological parent for many years
- If you financially supported your stepchildren throughout your marriage
- If you had a strong, loving bond with your stepchildren throughout your marriage
- If your stepchildren express the desire to have regular visitation with you (for older children)
While Kansas does specifically name stepparents as being eligible to request visitation rights after a divorce, the right to custody of your stepchildren is much more complicated. The court generally regards biological parents as being the best guardians of their own children unless there is an extenuating circumstance, such as domestic abuse or drug addiction. The court is always guided by the best interests of the children, including factors related to:
- The children’s physical and emotional wellbeing
- The children’s financial situation
- The children’s moral and religious upbringing
Every custody case is unique to its own set of circumstances, and while the court’s initial position is in favor of the biological parents’ custodial rights, it can consider your petition for custody if it determines that it would be beneficial to the children.
If You Are a Stepparent with Custody Concerns, Consult with an Experienced Kansas Family Law Attorney Today
Custody issues are some of the most difficult to endure, and if you are a stepparent, they’re even more complicated. The dedicated family law attorneys at Stockton & Stern, LLC in Gardner and Overland Park, Kansas, understand how difficult custody cases often are, and we’re committed to helping you. Our experienced legal team has the knowledge and compassion to help skillfully guide your case toward its most positive resolution. For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us today.