Sonia Walker March 28, 2021 Child Custody Lawyer
Child custody lawyer west palm beach - Millions of Americans have grown up in households with a step-parent. Whether a stepmother or stepfather, it is not uncommon for children to become just as attached to a step-parent as to the corresponding biological parent. In some cases children may only barely know that biological parent. Despite such a close bond, if the child's parent and step-parent divorce, it can be difficult for the step-parent to gain legal visitation or custody rights.
Under Florida law, biological parents have first priority in child custody issues. Only under exceptional circumstances does the court ordinarily grant visitation or custody rights to step-parents. If the child's primary caregiver believes that maintaining contact with the step-parent is in the child's best interests, it is possible for the step-parent to have formal visitation rights. If the court believes this might infringe on the rights of the other parent, however, the step-parent may be excluded.
Should a biological parent be unfit to care for a child--for example, if a parent has a criminal record--granting a step-parent visitation rights at the exclusion of the child's biological parent is much more likely. It is also possible for that biological parent to concede visitation rights to the step-parent, again, believing it to be in the child's best interests.
While many divorced couples might maintain an informal visitation agreement with a step-parent, this does not give the step-parent certain legal rights that may become relevant in emergencies. In some cases, the step-parent may adopt the child, but only if the other biological parent is deceased, is legally deemed to be an unfit parent, or if he or she gives custody to the step-parent. Finding the right arrangement for you will depend heavily on your unique circumstances.
If you and your spouse are considering a divorce, and one of you is a step-parent who is very close to your stepchildren, it may be a challenge to gain custody rights after a divorce. With the help of a West Palm Beach divorce lawyer, however, you may be able to help your children maintain healthy and supportive relationships following a divorce.