Two of the most contentious issues in many divorces involve either finances or children. Fighting a custody battle in the midst of your divorce can bring up a whole host of complex questions. This is particularly felt among stepparents. If you are divorcing, but are interested in remaining involved in your stepchildren’s lives, what legal options do you have? Are stepparents entitled to custody or visitation with their stepchildren after the marriage is dissolved? The answers to these questions are complicated, and depend on numerous factors. If you live in Schaumburg and are facing a stepparent custody issue, contact an experienced divorce attorney today. Your lawyer can explain your rights, and help you through the divorce process.
Stepparents’ Legal Rights
Illinois holds natural (adoptive) parents’ rights in high regard. Generally, the law allows parents to decide who their child will spend time with, and who can maintain a relationship with their child. Prioritizing a parent’s right to determine their child’s relationships can become problematic for a stepparent. It is not uncommon for stepparents to form close parental bonds with their stepchildren, especially if the stepparent entered the child’s life at an early age. However, if the stepparent and the natural (or adoptive parent) get divorced, the stepparent may want to continue their relationship with the child. This may be an issue if the child’s parent decides they do not want the stepparent-child relationship to continue.
As a stepparent, can you ensure that you will play a role in your stepchild’s life once they are no longer legally your stepchild? In most cases, stepparents are not entitled to child custody after divorce. If your stepchild’s parent does not want you to be a part of their life, the law will generally respect their decision. However, in limited circumstances, a stepparent may petition the court for custody or visitation. The law requires that to begin the custody process, a stepparent must show the following:
- The custodial parent and stepparent were married for at least 5 years, and the child resided with them during that time;
- The child is at least 12 years old;
- The custodial parent is deceased, or disabled and unable to care for the child;
- The stepparent provided care, control, and welfare before the custody case began;
- The child wants to live with the stepparent; and
- The stepparent’s custody or visitation of the child would be in the child’s best interests.
Clearly, not many cases will meet these strict criteria. If you feel that your situation meets these legal requirements, contact a custody lawyer today. Your lawyer can guide you through your divorce and the stepparent custody process.
Contact Our Naperville Custody Lawyers
At Fay, Farrow, & Associates, P.C., our skilled family law attorneys understand the emotional and legal complexities you may face during divorce. We are dedicated to helping clients throughout Naperville achieve their legal goals, and will work closely with you to meet that end. If you are contemplating divorce, have a custody question, or want to know how divorce will affect your legal relationship with your stepchildren, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.