Do Stepparents have a Right to Visitation in Florida?
A blended family is a beautiful thing for everyone involved. Stepparents often create very close bonds with their stepchildren. It is not uncommon for a stepparent to even spend more time with a child than one of the biological parents.
When a stepparent and a biological parent divorce, then, it is natural for the stepparent to wonder what will happen to their relationship with the child.
Unfortunately, stepparents have very limited rights in these situations, unless they have officially adopted the child. Below, one of our Tampa child custody attorneys explains further.
Stepparents Do Not have Automatic Rights to Visitation
When two people are married and they have a child together, it is automatically presumed that the man and wife are the biological father and mother of the child. This is not true for stepparents. Even if a stepparent has lived with the child since or shortly after birth, they still do not have any automatic legal rights under the law.
When a stepparent does not have parental rights, they cannot make decisions for the child or take certain actions, such as picking them up from school, without the consent of one or both biological parents.
Under Florida state law, children can only have two legal parents, and generally speaking, it is assumed that it is in the best interests of the child for those individuals to be the biological parents. It is due to this law that stepparents do not usually have parental rights, and why child custody cases sometimes require paternity to be established first.
There are times when a stepparent may have the same rights as a biological parent. When a biological parent is deemed to be unfit, they may have their parental rights terminated. Or, one biological parent could agree to terminate his or her rights. In either of these situations, the stepparent could then formally adopt the child and would have all the same rights as a biological parent.
Can Stepparents Get Visitation?
Without an official adoption having taken place, stepparents mostly cannot be awarded child custody by the court. Still, in very extenuating circumstances, a judge may grant a stepparent visitation rights. When making these decisions, judges will consider the following factors:
- Relationship with stepparent: The relationship between the other biological parent and the stepparent.
- Involvement of stepparent: How involved the stepparent is in the child’s life, such as if they are an active participant in the child’s extracurricular activities or if he or she stayed at home to care for the child.
- Age or Maturity of stepchild: Depending on their age and maturity level, the preference of the child.
- Detrimental to be without stepparent: Whether it will be detrimental to the child to no longer have a relationship with the stepparent.
It is important to note that family law judges will only consider what is in the best interests of the child. If a biological parent objects to visitation, the courts are typically very reluctant to overrule the objection. However, there are a few scenarios where a stepparent may be able to obtain visitation rights despite parental objections:
- Formal agreements: If Stepparent has a formal agreement with the biological parents, such as a pre-nuptial agreement or a stepparent adoption agreement, that specifies visitation rights, these rights will be enforceable in court.
- Child’s best interests: In rare cases, a court may grant a stepparent visitation rights if it determines that such visitation is in the best interests of the child. This is a high hurdle to cross, and the court will consider factors such as the length and quality of the stepparent-child relationship, the child’s wishes, and the potential impact of visitation on the child’s relationship with the biological parents.
- Termination of parental rights: If the biological parents’ parental rights are terminated, the stepparent may be eligible to adopt the child, which would give them full parental rights and visitation.
- Alternatives to court: It may be possible to reach an agreement with the biological parents outside of court that allows you to maintain some contact with your stepchildren. This could involve informal visitation arrangements or mediation.
It’s important to note that these are just general guidelines, and the specific circumstances of your situation will greatly influence the chance of your obtaining visitation rights.
Our Child Custody Attorneys in Tampa Can Help with Your Case
Any family dispute can become complicated, but those involving stepparents are some of the most complex. At All Family Law Group, P.A., our Tampa child custody attorneys know the strategies to use that will protect your best interests and give you the best possible outcome. Call us now at 813-672-1900 or contact us online to request a free consultation and to learn more about how we can help. Se habla Español.