Family attorneys Tampa FL

Stepparents’ Legal RightsFamily law in the United States has been evolving for as long as the structure of the American family has been evolving. But that does not always mean that the evolution of family law has been straightforward. For example, a significant percentage of the population is currently navigating the practical realities of being a stepparent to their spouse’s biological or adopted children. Yet, the laws surrounding stepparent rights are often unclear and are rarely discussed. Despite the number of stepparents in our society and their significant impact on American kids, the law rarely acknowledges their rights and obligations in distinct ways.

That is not to say that stepparents have no rights or obligations under the law. But it is often difficult to come across hard and fast rules related to this familial relationship. As a result, it may be uniquely beneficial for stepparents to discuss any questions and/or concerns they may have in regards to the legal side of their relationship with their stepchildren with one of the Tampa FL family attorneys from The McKinney Law Group. Doing so may help to clarify any given situation, especially because the law’s treatment of stepparents tends to vary based upon state law and general circumstances.

Custody, Visitation, Support, and Adoption

Like grandparents, stepparents may be able to successfully file for visitation rights in the event that they divorce their spouse or their spouse passes away. If a stepparent has developed a strong bond with the child and has cared for him or her in significant ways, these rights are generally upheld in some form. If a stepparent’s spouse is the child’s only legal parent (because their other biological or adoptive parent has surrendered his or her legal rights or passed away) the stepparent may even be granted custody rights in the event that his or her spouse dies.

It is worth noting that stepparents may generally adopt their stepchildren if their other biological parent has passed away, has given up his or her parental rights, or grants specific kinds of consent. But unless a stepchild is adopted by his or her stepparent, the stepparent will likely not be held liable for child support.


In general, decision-making is a stepparent’s right only when such authority has been delegated by a child’s biological or custodial parent. For example, stepparents cannot generally make medical decisions for their stepchildren and may not even be authorized to take them to medical appointments unless the stepparent’s spouse (and other biological or adoptive parent, when appropriate) sign a written agreement granting such permission. It can be helpful to have such authorization on-file with a stepchild’s physician and also easily accessible in another form in case of an emergency hospital visit.

Answers to Additional Questions

If you have questions about stepparent rights and obligations under the law, please consider speaking with an experienced family attorneys Tampa FL clients recommend from our law firm. Lawyers who specialize in family law should be able to answer your questions after learning about your unique circumstances. Asking confidential questions of an attorney cannot hurt, but remaining unsure about your legal options may affect you and/or your family in potentially negative ways.