Are Stepparents Legal Guardians?
Posted on June 16th, 2020 in Family Law
We know the modern family unit looks a lot different than it did in our parents’ and grandparents’ day. It’s welcoming to new family members, friends who become family, and new parent-child relationships. While the emotional connection between a child and stepparent may be strong, the legal bonds may be a bit more fragile. This may leave many families in NEPA wondering, are stepparents considered legal guardians?
Stepparents as Legal Guardians
While some stepparents do go through a formal adoption process, that is not the only option. Stepparents can also undergo a legal guardianship.
Legal guardianship is different from stepparent adoption in that it does not impact the relationship between children and biological parents. A stepparent may be appointed a legal guardian for the child, but the biological parents are still legally and financially responsible for the children.
However, if something were to happen to the parents, there is a bit more legal room for the stepparent to have rights.
Though the legal guardian and the biological parents can co-exist in the child’s upbringing, some courts may be hesitant to grant guardianship while both biological parents are capable of the child’s upbringing. Commonly, these guardianships are reserved for situations where one parent is unwilling or unable to care for the child.
In addition, a legal guardian is only in place until the child reaches a legal age where the guardianship is no longer needed. This is typically age 18.
Stepparents may also apply to become a temporary guardian of their stepchildren in the case of an emergency where a legal parent has a medical emergency or is traveling outside of the country for a length of time.
Unfortunately, though you may love and care for your spouse’s children as if they were your own, that does not mean you have a legal right to them. But if you believe that the child’s other biological parent is not caring for them, or is unable to care for them, you may be able to pursue legal guardianship or adoption. Remember, without taking the right steps now, you may not have rights in the future.
If you believe that you need to have guardianship over your stepchildren or need to speak to an attorney about your rights as a stepparent, you need Kalinoski Law Offices, PC.