Blended families and second marriages can lead to blurred lines between parent and step-parent. Children, and even adults, can sometimes get confused about who has authority to make decisions regarding children in the family. When parents share in the allocation of parental responsibilities, it can be hard to know what say step-parents in child custody cases actually have.
In this post, I will look at how step-parents can affect the allocation of parental responsibilities. I will address the role of step-parents in child custody cases, and what say the other parent has in their child’s exposure to this new role model in their lives.
Can You Control When New Partners are Introduced?
After a divorce or break-up, introducing the kids to a new partner can have a dramatic effect on the family dynamics. When children are exposed to a series of short-term boyfriends or girlfriends, they may have trouble knowing who to look to, or may struggle with feeling that they have been abandoned. That’s why many parents agree that they will discuss new relationships with one another before introducing a new role-model into the children’s life.
But that doesn’t mean you get to control your ex-spouse’s love life. Eventually one or both of you may decide to get remarried. When that happens, those new partners become step-parents. And while it may not be healthy for kids to meet every person either parent dates, they probably should have a relationship with their future step-parents before they say “I do.” Even if parents have agreed to discuss meeting the partners ahead of time, the Colorado courts won’t let you stand in the way if your ex-spouse plans to get remarried or refuse reasonable efforts to introduce children to their new step-parents.
What Say Do Step-Parents in Child Custody Cases Have?
Once your child’s parent gets remarried, you will inevitably have to start dealing with a step-parent in co-parenting your children. Whether the new spouse acts as your children’s caregiver and drops children off for visitation, or simply disciplines your children while they are in their care, you are going to have to deal with another adult with authority over your child’s day-to-day life. But how much say do step-parents in child custody cases actually have?
Under Colorado child custody law, parental responsibility is allocated between a child’s legal parents based on that child’s best interest. Sometimes this means one parent is in charge of making decisions about the child’s health, education, and religious upbringing. More often, however, both parents are involved. They may each have final say over different aspects of a child’s upbringing, or their child custody order may direct them to work together for the child’s best interests. In any case, it is the parents, not the step-parents, who have the final say about what happens to a child. That is, unless the court determines otherwise.
Could a Step-Parent Ever Get Custody of Your Child?
In most cases, a child’s legal and biological parents are the ones who control the decisions that affect his or her life. However, step-parents and other non-parents can sometimes ask the court to modify an allocation of parental responsibility, seeking visitation, or even custody, of a child. In these cases, the court will still look at the child’s best interest in deciding whether to legally involve a step-parent in the allocation of parental responsibility. The court may also consider other factors like:
- How close the child’s relationship is with the step-parent
- The emotional ties between the child and the step-parent
- How much the step-parent has participated in the child’s life
- How long the step-parent has been standing in for the child’s biological or legal parents
- Whether the child will be negatively affected by removing the step-parent
- Whether the step-parent has been providing financially for the child
Altogether, before the court grants a step-parent visitation or custody, the judge will want to know whether the child’s life and welfare will be better off with the step-parent involved.
A stepparent may also file a petition to adopt your child, along with their spouse. This would allow the step-parent to step into your place as the legal parent of the child. However, before that can happen, you, as the non-residential parent, will need to agree to the process (or at least not object) and have abandoned the child for at least one year, including both visitation and financial support.
A new step-parent can throw a divorced family into disarray as parents, children, and step-parents all feel out their new roles and new relationships. But in most cases, step-parents in child custody cases have only limited power to affect your child’s life without your consent. At Aviso Law, LLC, our child custody lawyers know that sometimes step-parents can overstep their authority and interfere with your relationship with your child. We know how to use Colorado law to modify and enforce the allocation of parenting time to protect your rights and your relationships with your children. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.