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Understanding the Child Custody Rights of Stepparents


In the event of a divorce, stepparents have very limited child custody rights under Florida law. Their rights are not only superseded by the right’s of the legal parent, but they also have fewer rights than do the child’s biological extended family. In fact, stepparents will not even be granted visitation rights without the approval of the child’s legal parent. After a divorce, if a child’s legal parent decides to cut off a child’s relationship with his or her stepparent, there is virtually no recourse. In order to obtain enforceable child custody rights in Florida, a stepparent must have legally adopted the child. Only by becoming a child’s legal parent can stepparents be sure that they will have rights to the child no matter what happens in the future of their marriage.

When is a Stepparent Eligible to Adopt?

Section 63.042 of the Florida Statutes governs adoptions within the state. Under this law, stepparents may seek adoption if they are the legal spouse of the child’s mother or father. It should be noted that a stepparent does not need to be married to the child’s biological mother or father. Simply, the stepparent’s current spouse must have valid parental rights. As long as this criteria is met, the stepparent is generally eligible to seek adoption. However, there is an exception for stepparents who are not deemed physically or psychologically capable of serving as an effective parent. Ultimately, it must be emphasized that stepparents have no automatically existing custody rights. Even if they are married to the child’s legal parent. A legal adoption must still take place. Even if you you have raised the child, building a very deep decade long relationship in process, you still must adopt to ensure parental rights that can be enforced after a divorce.

Does the Stepparent Need Consent From Both of the Child’s Parents?

Not necessarily. It will depend entirely on the child’s current relationship with his or her parents, and both parents’ current role in the child’s life. Assuming that the stepparent’s current spouse consents to the adoption, in some cases there may be no need to seek consent from the child’s other parent. Of course, the process is much easier if consent is readily given. Consent from both parents should be sought in cases where it is possible. However, if it is not possible, or if the child’s other parent simply refuses to cooperate, there are still options available. At this point though, you may be required to seek the termination of the child’s other parent’s parental rights. These can be very challenging in some cases. If you are involved in this type of situation, it is critical that you are represented by a qualified family law attorney.

Contact Our Orlando Office Today

At the Law Offices of Steve W. Marsee, P.A., our team has extensive experience handling all types of child custody cases. If you are involved in a child custody dispute in Florida, please call us today at 407-521-7171 to learn more about what we can do for you. We proudly represent families throughout the Orlando region, including in Orange County, Lake County and Seminole County.

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