Stepparents often have close, loving relationships with their stepchildren that are the same as those between a biological parent and child. However, stepparents do not have the same rights as biological parents, especially when a relationship ends. At Comunale Law Office, the knowledgeable and experienced Ohio family law attorneys are here to provide top-tier legal advice on your rights as a stepparent. To learn more, call or contact our office today to schedule a free initial consultation.
Stepparent Custody and Visitation
In most cases, the court does not automatically give custody or visitation rights to a stepparent when a marriage ends, unless the stepparent has gone through the formal adoption process of a minor child. However, there are specific circumstances when a judge may award visitation rights to a stepparent if one of the following situations can be shown in court:
- The stepparent has been a part of the child’s life for an extended period of time
- The stepparent has acted as the child’s biological parent throughout their upbringing and life
- The stepparent has provided critical functions as a parent for the child, including providing love, care, and financial support
- There is a strong bond between stepparent and child, or
- The court finds that it is in the child’s best interests to allow visitation with a stepparent
In extreme circumstances, the court may even award custody to a stepparent of their stepchild after a divorce. This typically occurs when the biological parent that the stepparent was married to is unfit to care for the child themselves. For example, significant mental illness, drug addiction, a history of domestic violence or other criminal activity, and physical disability of a biological parent may qualify a stepparent for custody of a stepchild.
How to Protect Stepparent Rights
There are a couple of ways to protect your rights as a step-parent for visitation or custody of a stepchild. One method is to formally adopt a stepchild through the Ohio courts. However, this process either requires the termination of one biological parent’s rights or the passing of a biological parent in order for a step-parent to petition for adoption. Another way to protect your rights is to establish through the use of documentation and other evidence the close bond between stepparent and stepchild in order to convince the court that it is in the child’s best interest for the step-parent to retain some rights after the end of their relationship with the biological child.
It is important to note that in Ohio, it is not legal to include issues of child custody or visitation in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Any attempt to claim custody or visitation rights through this method will likely be rejected by the courts, but it may be used as evidence of the strong bond between stepparent and child.
Call or Contact Us Today
To learn more about your rights as an Ohio stepparent, call the office or contact us today at Comunale Law Office to schedule a free consultation of your case with one of our experienced family law attorneys now.