Imagine the following scenario: A woman with a one-year-old daughter marries a man who is not the biological father of her child. The stepfather takes an active role in parenting the little girl and considers her to be his own child. The biological father does not play a significant role in his daughter’s life. After twelve years of marriage, the woman decides to get a divorce and wants to cut all ties with her former spouse. The stepfather wants to seek visitation rights of the child he has considered to be his own for many years.
With the constant blending of families in recent decades, a stepparent’s right to visitation with a stepchild is a common issue that arises in divorce cases. Many people seek legal advice asking the following question: Do I have visitation rights regarding my stepchild following a divorce? Unfortunately, in Florida, the short answer to this question is no. Florida is actually one of four states that provide no rights to stepparents for visitation or parenting following a divorce. Though a stepparent will not have any legal rights regarding stepchildren on which to fall back, there are certain steps that a person can take to have a better chance of preserving the ability to visit with stepchildren after a divorce.
Work for an Amicable Divorce
Just because a stepparent has no legal rights to visitation does not mean that the divorcing spouses can never agree to visitation on their own terms. There are many tools that allow couples to decide their own fate in divorce and leave the decision-making power out of the hands of a judge. If you work to keep the peace with your spouse and engage in positive problem-solving techniques such as mediation or cooperative divorce, there is a better chance your spouse will recognize your honest desire to continue a relationship with your stepchildren and will agree to visitation.
Consider an Adoption
If the biological parent is truly not in the parenting picture and is willing to give up parenting rights, you may be able to adopt your stepchild as your own during the course of the marriage. Once you adopt a child, you will have the full rights and responsibilities of a biological parent, including rights to visitation and shared custody following a divorce. Though stepparent adoption is not an option in every case, it is always an option worth pursuing to ensure you retain access to your stepchildren should your marriage relationship sour.
If you are a stepparent who wishes to make sure you preserve a relationship with your stepchildren should you face divorce, it is a good idea to explore your options well before marital problems start, if possible. If you wish to pursue an adoption or simply want advice for an amicable divorce, experienced Boca Raton family law attorney Alan R. Burton can help you. We work for creative family law solutions that are the best result for everyone involved, so please do not hesitate to contact our office for help today.