Tibbott & Richardson

Step Parent Rights

Today, there are countless blended families nationwide that are providing loving, thriving environments for minor children. In PA, many custodial and non-custodial parents share the responsibilities of raising a child with a spouse or step parent.

A parent through marriage alone is considered a step parent. In most cases, step parent rights exist as a function of the natural parent’s rights where court-ordered child custody is in place.

Step parents are recognized caregivers in Pennsylvania, and are often referred to in PA statutes as a form of “parent.” A step parent may be able to seek visitation rights if she/he has acted as a parent to the child over time. However, in order to obtain protected rights relating to their step-children, a step parent will usually adopt through a second parent adoption.

Stepchild Adoption
It is increasingly common for a parent and step-parent to adopt a child. When one of the natural parents marries or remarries, it may be in the child’s best interest to legally transfer all of the other natural parent’s rights to the step parent.

If the other birth parent of the child consents to the adoption, he or she must voluntarily and legally relinquish all rights to the child before the adoption can occur. In this case, all parties need to follow very specific procedures prior to the successful adoption.

If the other natural parent does not consent, for example because he or she has abandoned the child, the parent and step parent will still need to obtain termination of parental rights before the adoption can proceed.

Here, the involuntary termination of parental rights may be ordered by the court when, for a period of at least 6 months, the natural parent has refused or failed to perform parental duties, and/or has evidenced their intention of relinquishing all rights.

**PA courts are very reluctant to involuntarily terminate a natural parent’s rights. You will need to hire a step parent adoption attorney to demonstrate substantial proof that the bio-parent should have all rights terminated. **

Special considerations for stepparent adoptions may exist because of a pre-existing visitation or custody order held by a grandparent or great-grandparent. Such an order will survive an adoption by a step parent. After a step parent successfully adopts the child, grandparents will also retain the right to seek custodial orders.

Visitation for Step Parents After Death or Divorce
Your stepparent adoption legally established all rights and responsibilities under Pennsylvania law between a parent and child. But what happens when you and the biological parent split up?
Or, what will happen in the unfortunate event of the biological parent’s death?

Your rights are still enforceable by law. You may, however, need to successfully re-assert those rights in court. This can occur when, for example, the parent/s of your child’s biological parent file for custody after the bio-parent’s death.

In the case of a divorce between you and the biological parent, you might find it necessary to protect your relationship with your step-child should the other parent re-marry.

If you are considering a stepparent adoption, or if you need to protect your rights as a step-parent, you can consult with us for a free evaluation of your needs.

Your initial consultation is completely free, and you are under no obligation for talking to us. Call us at (412) 444-7171 today.

Tibbott & Richardson
1040 Fifth Avenue, Fourth Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
(412) 444-7171