How Does Being a Blended Family Affect Divorce?
Today, around 40% of families in the United States are blended. This means that one or both partners have children from a previous relationship. A blended family always has at least one stepparent but can have stepsiblings if both parents had children from prior relationships. They can also lead to half-siblings and stepparents’ parents becoming adoptive parents if they chose to legally adopt the other parent’s children.
But what happens when blended families go through divorce like so many families do? The legal rights and ramifications will affect the children and their bond no matter what. The specifics do change based on whether the stepparent ever becomes the adoptive parent of their stepchild.
Either way, in non-blended marriages, there’s typically no custody difference between children, but there can be in blended marriages. When it comes to any children born out of the marriage, custody works the same with any divorce, but when it comes to the children born from prior relationships, the adoption status comes into play.
Blended Families Where the Children Have Been Adopted
In any blended family, the stepparent can adopt the biological children of their partner. To do so, if the other biological parent is still alive and retains parental rights, their parental rights must be terminated. Termination of parental rights can be easy and simple if the other partner consents, but regardless of if the adoption is successful, that means the stepparent has become the child’s legal parent. This means they have all the same custody rights as the biological parent they married and all of the responsibilities.
When a stepparent has become an adoptive parent before a divorce, the custody case for the adoptive children becomes the same for one between two biological parents. They both have equal rights and responsibilities in the eyes of the law. This means that the court views the adoptive parent with equal reference as a biological parent when discussing child custody, visitation, and child support.
An important thing to remember is that should the adoptive parent not become the custodial parent, they are responsible for child support, not the biological parent whose parental rights were terminated during adoption. At the same time, it’s not incredibly common that the court will make the adoptive parent their legal guardian over a biological parent. It’s typically agreed upon by the divorcing parents that the child remains with their biological parent.
Blended Families Where the Children Have Not Been Adopted
When the stepparent never becomes the adoptive parent, the children remain with their biological parent. The stepparent loses all custody rights and would need the biological parent’s permission and agreement to any visitation. Extreme and extenuating circumstances regarding abuse can help a stepparent make a case to sue for custody, but in most instances, they don’t have any legal rights to the child as a parent.
At the same time, because the stepparent never adopted the child and the other biological parent’s rights were never terminated, this means the stepparent has no legal responsibility to pay child support.
Attorney Craig Kalinoski: Scranton Divorce Attorney
The most important thing in a divorce is the children if there are any. They need to be taken care of and put in the best situation they can be in terms of custody, visitation, and child support. Attorney Craig Kalinoski understands that, and after caring for the children, he works just as hard to make sure you’re as prepared for post-divorce life as possible. If you are ready to begin the divorce process, contact the Scranton divorce attorney, Craig Kalinoski, today.