Are Stepparents Granted Visitation Rights in Florida?
Blended families are a beautiful thing, and are beneficial for the entire family unit. Many stepparents develop close loving bonds with their stepchildren, and some are even more involved in their lives than one of the biological parents. It is natural then, for stepparents to wonder if they have visitation rights in the same manner as the biological parents after a divorce. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, the answer to the question is no.
Stepparents Do Not have Parental Rights
Stepparents are not given automatic parental rights either when they become part of the family, or if they divorce the biological parent. This holds true even if they have lived with the stepchild since they were born. Without parental rights, stepparents cannot make decisions for the child, such as picking them up from school without the consent of the biological parent responsible for doing it.
Children can only have two legal parents in Florida and the law presumes that it is in the best interests of the child for those parents to be the child’s biological parents. It is for this reason that paternity must sometimes be established, and also why stepparents do not generally have parental rights.
However, in the event that a biological parent is deemed unfit, their parental rights may be terminated and then the stepparent could adopt the stepchild and obtain legal parental rights. Generally speaking, this is the only way stepparents can petition the Court for visitation rights.
When Might a Court Grant a Stepparent Visitation Rights?
When there are extenuating circumstances, the Court may grant a stepparent visitation rights. It is important to note that without having legal parental rights, stepparents are not granted child custody. However, a Judge may determine that granting visitation rights to a stepparent is in the child’s best interests after considering the following factors:
- The relationship between the stepparent and the biological parent not married to them
- The level of involvement of the stepparent in the stepchild’s life, such as if they work from home to care for the stepchild or take an active part in the child’s extracurricular activities
- The preference of the child, depending on their age and maturity level
- Whether separating the stepparent from the child be detrimental to the child’s emotional well-being
In all cases, the Judge will consider the needs of the child first, and then the needs of the biological parents when they are deemed fit. The Courts are usually reluctant to overrule the biological parent’s objection to visitation.
Our Family Lawyers in Orlando Can Advise On Your Case
All family legal disputes have the potential to become complicated, but this is particularly true when stepparents want visitation with their stepchild. If you are in this situation, our Orlando family lawyers at O’Mara Law Group can provide the sound legal advice you need and give you the best chance of a successful outcome. Contact us today by calling 407-634-6604 or by filling out our online form to schedule a consultation and to learn more about how we can help.