Divorce may be considered by some as a process that breaks up families. However, in certain cases, a divorce can actually lead to new, strong family connections being formed.
In cases where a divorced parent remarries, a very strong parent-child bond can develop between the new stepparent and his or her stepchildren. If the relationship between the stepparent and the children’s biological parent ultimately ends in divorce, questions may arise regarding what rights, if any, the stepparent has to see or interact with his or her stepchildren.
Two Different Types of Stepparent Cases
In certain cases where there is not a continuing positive relationship between the children and their other birth-parent, the stepparent may adopt the stepchildren and therefore make them legally his or her own. In these cases, should the children's biological parent and adoptive parent ever divorce, the adoptive parent has the same rights he or she would have if he or she were the children’s biological parent.
However, adoption is not practical, or even possible or desirable, in every situation. Children may have a strong continuing relationship with both biological parents in addition to the stepparent. In these cases, if the stepparent and the biological parent divorce, things can become more complicated.
Visitation Where the Stepparent Did Not Adopt the Stepchildren
Visitation rights and privileges are regulated by Illinois statute. In Illinois, a court can grant reasonable visitation privileges to a stepparent if the stepparent petitions for such privileges. However, the court must determine that doing so would be in the best interests and welfare of the child. Still, not all stepparents are eligible to file a petition for stepparent visitation. One must meet the following conditions to be eligible:
The child must be at least 12 years old;
The child must have continuously resided with the parent and the stepparent for at least five years;
The parent must be deceased or disabled and unable to care for the child;
The child must wish to have reasonable visitation with the stepparent; and
The stepparent must have been providing for the care, control, and welfare of the child prior to the initiation of the petition.
Continuing Relationships between Step Siblings
Even if you are not eligible for stepparent visitation, if you have children of your own from either this marriage or a previous marriage, they may be awarded visitation privileges with your stepchildren if it is in the best interests of the children to maintain the relationships. These visitation privileges are not guaranteed and are decided on a case-by-case basis.
Call Sullivan Taylor & Gumina, P.C.
If you are considering a divorce in the DuPage County area, please contact the experienced Illinois family law attorneys at Sullivan Taylor & Gumina, P.C. Our phone number is (630) 756-5112. We handle complicated divorce, child custody, and visitation matters regularly and we can help you fight for what is in the best interests of both your children and your stepchildren.