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Do I Have Any Legal Rights As a Step Dad?

Updated April 17, 2017

With many of today's families being of a blended nature, the question of a stepfather's legal rights comes up more and frequently. Though laws differ by individual state, stepdads should make themselves aware of a few general rules.

Adoption

Typically, your rights as a stepfather are greatly increased if you legally adopted your spouse's child. Depending upon where you live, the biological father may have to give up paternity rights first. Or, a request from the court for adoption may have to be made if the biological father abandoned the child, or cannot be located.

Limits

Unfortunately, legal rights for stepdads are still in their infancy, and a great many are not available without the benefit of adoption. Generally, a stepfather does not have the right to do anything concerning the children without permission of the biological parent or parents.

Exceptions

If the only available biological parent (such as the mother), is away, or otherwise unavailable, a stepfather may be able to invoke the rule of "in loco parentis" (in place of the parent). For instance, if the spouses have an agreed-upon discipline policy, some states will let the stepdad enforce this policy when the mother cannot.

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About the Author

A professional writer for LexisNexis since 2008, Ilana Waters has created pages for websites such as ComLawOne.com and AndersonHome.com. A writing scholarship helped her graduate summa cum laude from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Social Work. She then obtained her Master of Social Work from Monmouth University.