Blended families are more common than ever, and may soon be the norm. Sometimes these complex families face unique custody issues. While the law usually favors a biological parent in custody cases, the best choice may be stepparent in certain circumstances.
Reasons a Stepparent May Need Custody of a Child
There are several reasons why a stepparent may feel it is important to seek custody of a child. Reasons include:
- The death of a biological parent;
- The abandonment by biological parents;
- Biological parents are unfit; and
- A stepparent has primarily raised the child.
Sometimes, the person who has been the best parent to a child is a stepparent. When something happens to the biological parent, or the relationship between the stepparent and the biological parent ends, stepparents may feel like their continued involvement is in the best interest of the child.
Family Law and Stepparent Custody
Stepparents can have just as powerful an impact on the life of a child as a biological parent. When a couple splits up, there is not usually an option under the law for a stepparent to receive court ordered visitation, and custody is often out of the question.
However, there may be several legal options for step parents who feel compelled to continue to raise a stepchild. These options include the following:
- Stepparent adoption;
- Seeking a guardianship; or
- Termination of parental rights.
In cases where the biological parents are deceased or have not had any contact with the child for many years, the process of gaining full legal custody may be easier. In cases like these an adoption often makes sense. Sometimes, a guardianship is the best initial step because the legal burden is less and it can give the stepparent the legal authority he or she needs to make some day to day decisions for a child.
Each case is unique. Stepparents may face extra challenges in both the legal process and in convincing a judge to award them custody of a stepchild. It often takes a creative and assertive lawyer to help a stepparent overcome the preference in the law that a child be with the biological parents.
Custody issues can be complex and time-sensitive. If you have questions about custody, parenting time, or any other family issue, you need to speak with an experienced DuPage County family law lawyer. Call Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C. today at 630-665-7676 to schedule a consultation.