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What Rights to Custody Do Step Parents Have?

What Rights to Custody Do Step Parents Have

Although it is possible for stepparents to request custody or visitation of a children who are not biologically theirs, it can be a challenging process. As a family lawyer, I’ve seen some things that may help. There are some ways in which the law treats stepparents similarly to natural parents, as a step parent has likely played a significant role in the child’s life. In other situations, however, the natural parent’s rights will take precedent.

One of the major issues in a stepparent achieving custody or visitation rights is the idea of “standing,” or that parent’s right to even have his or her case heard in court. In a situation involving stepparents, there are several factors that come into play:

  • How involved that stepparent has been in the child’s life
  • How long the stepparent participated as an actual parent in the child’s life in place of a natural parent
  • The existence and strength of the relationship between a stepparent and child
  • How much financial support the step parent provides to the child
  • Whether there could be a detriment to the child if the stepparent is denied custody or visitation

Stepparents are, in general, more likely to receive visitation than actual custody. Approximately half of the states in the nation have laws that authorize stepparent visitation, with additional states having processes in place to allow them to petition for it. Utah allows for stepparents to petition for these rights.

The lack of a blood relationship, however, is a significant barrier to overcome when seeking custody rights. Natural parents must be clearly unfit for custody if a court is to place the children in another home.

Can a Veteran’s Spouse Claim VA Benefits During Divorce?

Although wives and husbands of military personnel typically lose benefits when they dissolve their marriage to a service member, federal law does provide certain protections for former military spouses. Depending on the length of your marriage to a service member, you may retain these rights:

  • Access to the commissary and post exchange — If you were married for at least 20 years to a service member with at least 20 years of service credited toward retirement, you are entitled to use the commissary and PX. You may retain these privileges until you remarry.
  • Retirement pay — For an ex-spouse to qualify for a share in a service member’s retirement pay, the couple must have been married for at least 10 years and for at least 10 years of the member’s service time. State equitable distribution laws decide how much of the retirement pay the ex-spouse receives. Retirement pay continues until the service member dies.
  • Healthcare — Ex-spouses of retired or active-duty service members may continue their health insurance coverage under the Department of Defense’s TRICARE system as long as they don’t remarry or enroll in an employer’s group healthcare plan. However, the spouse’s sponsor (the ex-spouse service member) must have at least 20 years of service and the couple must have been married for at least 20 years of the credited service.
  • Survivor benefit — The service member may elect, within two years of the divorce, to leave a survivor benefit to an ex-spouse. This is a monthly payment that begins upon the death of the service member, and it can relieve financial hardships that come with the termination of retirement pay.

Free Initial Consultation with a Lawyer in Utah

It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506