A divorce with biological children presents custody issues between biological parents. In a subsequent divorce involving stepchildren, custody may prove trickier.
Stepparents may provide care to children for years, but does that give them rights to continue having a relationship with the children after divorce? Discover the path a non-biological parent may take to maintain access to stepchildren outside of marriage.
Best interests of the children
The family court usually goes by what is in the children’s best interest when deciding custody. In a marriage with non-biological children, however, this does not apply. Under New Jersey law, a third party does not have a right to enter a custody action unless there is proof that it is in the best interests of the children. To receive this type of ruling, a non-biological parent may want to present evidence of the importance of their bond with the children. A psychologist may help in asserting a stepparent’s rights.
Time spent with the children
While the relationship of a biological parent often trumps anyone else’s, there are times when this does not hold. Suppose a stepparent has played an integral role in the children’s lives for many years and formed a parental bond. In that case, a court may consider an argument to divide custody or allow visitation. The age of the children may come into play as a judge may ask them about the stepparent relationship and whether they wish to continue it.
Giving up a bond with non-biological children is difficult. During a divorce, it may prove wise to express your wishes and evidence of your relationship to gain an agreement to continue seeing them.