Do I Have Any Rights to My Stepchildren in a Divorce?

  • 02 Jun 2022

Divorce can be an emotionally fraught process for all involved, especially children. The situation can get even more complicated if the children are not biologically related to both parents, but rather from a previous relationship

If you are considering divorce, or currently going through it, you might be wondering if you will have any rights to your stepchildren. 

Legally speaking, there is not much that guarantees your rights as a stepparent. However, just because your relationship with your ex has ended, that doesn’t mean your relationship with their children also has to end. 

There are many benefits to maintaining a relationship with your stepchild after a divorce. Read on to discover your rights, and how a family attorney can help you. 

Cases Where Parental Rights Are Given to Stepparents

There are a few situations where the parental rights of a stepparent will be considered.

First, if you adopted your stepchild during the marriage, you will remain the legally recognized parent even in the case of divorce. However, a child can only have two parents, so if both biological parents wish to retain their rights, this is not an option. 

Second, if you and your ex spouse agree that it is a good idea for you to maintain a relationship with the child, a non-legal arrangement can be made. Co-parenting with an ex requires cooperation, communication, and compromise, but if both parties are willing to make it work, it’s not impossible.

Keep in mind, though, without a legal recognition of your parenthood, you will not be allowed any rights to custody or important decision making. 

But what if your ex is refusing to let you see your stepchild? What if no reasonable co-parenting arrangement can be made? You may have a case that is worth taking to court to fight for. 

Legal Action You Can Take

As previously mentioned, there is nothing in the law books which guarantees you rights to your stepchildren. Family law typically dictates that biological parents are the best guardians for their own children, with exceptions for extreme circumstances, such as abuse.

But while considering the best interest of the child, the court might rule in favor for you to remain in their life. This would be the case if you were married to the biological parent for many years and you financially supported your stepchildren during that time.

The court will also consider your relationship and impact on the child. If you have a strong, loving connection based on trust and support, the judge will likely consider this relationship integral to the wellbeing of the child. 

If the child is older and able to express their own desires, their opinions will also be taken into consideration. 

How to Maintain a Relationship With Your Stepchild After Divorce

Follow these tips to maintain a relationship with your stepchild after your divorce: 

  • Remain civil with your ex: You don’t have to be best friends with your ex spouse, but maintaining a civil and cooperative relationship will help you be better co-parents. 


  • Respect the boundaries of the child: Understand that, just as you are going through a major change in life, so is your stepchild. If they express they need some space, try to respect their boundaries. 


  • Be patient & remain available: If you are unable to see your stepchild as often as you would like, be patient. Express that you are always available for support, so they can turn to you when they need it. As they grow up, they will be able to make different decisions for themselves, and rekindle your parental relationship. 
  • Contact a family lawyer: If you believe you are being unfairly treated by your ex spouse, a family lawyer might be able to help. They will review the facts of the case and advise if you have a leg to stand on. 



Family Lawyers in Maryland

Here at the Law Offices of Sandra Guzman-Salvado, we understand that each family is unique. That’s why our attorneys take the time to get to know you, so we can be the best advocates for your individual situation. 

Our family lawyers can help guide you through Maryland custody laws and provide the experienced council you deserve. Prepare for your divorce and defend your parental rights with help from the Law Offices of Sandra Guzman-Salvado.

Schedule a consultation with us today by calling (301) 340-1911.

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