What parental rights do I have over my step children once I get married? 20 Answers as of July 22, 2011

I am getting married within the next year. My fiancé currently has two kids from two different men. Neither father at birth wanted to be on their kid’s birth certificate. One child is 3 the other is 17 months old, both children are currently living with me along with my fiancé, as they have for the past 6 months. The fathers see them every so often; the 3yr old father maybe once every 3 months, the 17mth old father sees him about once a week for a day. My question is once we are married what legal/ parental rights do I have pertaining to the children that would then be my step children? Also if anything were to happen to my fiancé after marriage, leaving me to raise the kids alone, what legal/ parental right would I have then since neither father is on the birth certificate? If she were to appoint me sole custody and legal guardian of the kids would there be any way their birth fathers could over rule this in court to try to gain custody of their children?

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Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser
Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser | Donald F. Conviser
You don't get "legal rights" to your stepchildren by marrying their mother. Were you to want to adopt the children, the fathers would need to consent to the termination of their parental rights, inasmuch as the Court won't terminate, for adoption purposes,the parental rights of a parent who has visited or contributed to the support of a child at any time during the past year.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 7/22/2011
Law Office of Robert L. Fiedler
Law Office of Robert L. Fiedler | Robert L Fiedler
As a step father, you do not have any rights that supercede the father's rights.
Answer Applies to: Connecticut
Replied: 7/22/2011
Joanna Mitchell & Associates, P.A.
Joanna Mitchell & Associates, P.A. | Joanna Mitchell
None. Biology rules in Florida unless you legally adopt the children, which would need to be done with the biological fathers consent, especially being as they are somewhat involved with the children. If something were to happen to the mother, the children would go to their biological fathers, unless there was good cause (such as abuse, endangerment, etc.) for them not to or the biological fathers did not want the children to reside with them.
Answer Applies to: Florida
Replied: 7/22/2011
John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law
John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law | John Kirchner
As a step-parent you will have no rights, responsibilities, or authority beyond what a parent may be able to temporarily delegate to you. If your fiancee dies, you have no legal rights or priority to care for the kids unless she names you as guardian in a Will. Even then, depending on how long you have been involved with the kids, you could still face serious legal challenges from grandparents and/or the bio-fathers. From the facts you describe, a step-parent adoption might be the best overall option once you have been married to the mother for a year. But, that will require some involvement of the fathers. A step parent can adopt with the consent of one parent and, if the other parent refuses to consent, proof that the other parent has abandoned the child or failed to pay child support for the year previous to filing the step-parent adoption petition. Since neither father is on the birth certificate and apparently have never been ordered to pay child support, strictly speaking neither of them currently has any rights other than the right be legally determined to be the father and have a court set child support and describe what parental rights they should have. Overall, any judicial decision will be focused primarily on what is in the childs best interests, but the constitutional rights of a parent will have some impact in that decision. But, there are many reasons why you fianc ought to begin paternity proceedings against the fathers now and get those issues decided once and for all. Faced with a court ordered child support obligation, either or both of those guys may drop out of the picture entirely.
Answer Applies to: Colorado
Replied: 7/21/2011
Dunnings Law Firm
Dunnings Law Firm | Steven Dunnings
If you have not adopted them, you have no parental rights
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 7/21/2011
    Willick Law Group
    Willick Law Group | Marshal S. Willick
    Yes, what you describe is an incipient legal mess should anything happen. One of the factors for custody of a child is "any nomination by a parent of a guardian for a child." So if your wife-to-be so named you in her will, and then died, you would have a legal basis for a claim to custody - but normally a natural parent not found to be unfit has a superior claim. And if neither natural dad is on the birth certificates, they (at the moment) have neither legal rights nor legal responsibilities toward these children - and both should be formalized, one way or the other.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 7/21/2011
    Pontrello Law
    Pontrello Law | William Pontrello
    Biological fathers have the rights. If signed over to you ok, if not they call the shot.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 7/21/2011
    Law Office of Roianne H. Conner
    Law Office of Roianne H. Conner | Roianne Houlton Conner
    Although you would be their stepfather, unless you adopt these children you would have no legal rights to either child.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 7/21/2011
    Horizons Law Group, LLC
    Horizons Law Group, LLC | Michelle B. Fitzgerald
    It would depend whether either father has established paternity through the courts. If not (or until they do) the mother has sole legal authority/custody if never married to the fathers. If something happened to her, you would most likely need to request guardianship of them and a guardian ad litem (GAL) would be appointed.
    Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
    Replied: 7/21/2011
    Law Office of James Lentz
    Law Office of James Lentz | James Lentz
    Obviously you love the children very much. Unfortunately you have no rights to the children under law. If something were to happen to mom, she could recommend the court in her will that the children be remanded to your custody, But the fathers could challenge this. The best way to obtain rights to the children would be a step-parent adoption. The birth fathers often go along when they hear their child support obligation goes away with the adoption. Please contact a local domestic relations attorney for further information.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 7/21/2011
    Law Office Of Jody A. Miller
    Law Office Of Jody A. Miller | Jody A. Miller
    As a step-parent you do not have any rights to the children. If your fiancee names you as guardian in her will, the biological fathers can challenge it. The only way to get rights to the children is for the biological fathers to terminate their parental rights and for you ton adopt them.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 7/21/2011
    Seattle Divorce Services
    Seattle Divorce Services | Michael V. Fancher
    From your description, it sounds like the only person who has been established as a parent to the children is their mother. (I am assuming neither father has had the court determine them to be the father or enter a parenting plan.) Both you and the children's fathers would have whatever parental rights the court might grant them, which apparently has not been done yet. For the fathers to establish parental rights, they would need to bring paternity actions to have themselves determined to be the legal fathers and to establish their rights. For you to establish rights, you would either need to adopt the children, or bring a third party custody action (such as if something had happened to the mother).
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 7/21/2011
    Glenn E. Tanner
    Glenn E. Tanner | Glenn E. Tanner
    You don't have any rights. You could arguably have some responsibilities particularly if the Father's do not pay support.Your wife could name you their guardian if she passed awaybut the Fathers could trump that.If you want rights, adopt them.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 7/21/2011
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP | Christine Gonilla
    you gain no independent rights to your stepchildren by marriage to their mother. Their fathers could assert their rights in a paternity action.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 7/21/2011
    Law Offices of Arlene D. Kock
    Law Offices of Arlene D. Kock | Arlene D. Kock
    Unless you adopt either of these children, each biological father's parenting rights trumps your relationship to the children.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/21/2011
    Ashman Law Office
    Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
    They are not your children. You have no rights as to them whatsoever.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 7/21/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    We would recommend that you retain a divorce/family law attorney in your area to discuss your rights and options. One thing you should discuss with your family law attorney is the idea of a step-parent adoption. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 7/20/2011
    Linda C. Garrett Law
    Linda C. Garrett Law | Linda Garrett
    As a step-parent, you would not have parental rights. Rights pertain to legal rightsas compared to moral and ethical duties and responsibilities as a step-parent. For instance, a step-parent cannot ask for custody and/or visitation rightsthose rights remain between the mother and father. I recommend you consider purchasing a book relating to blended familiesas it relates to parenting issues, e.g. discipline, working with the natural mother, expectations of stepparent and stepchildren in blended family situation. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/20/2011
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    You do not gain parental rights by marrying another person with a child. Your role as a step parent is different and certainly not equal to another parent. If the two fathers who are not involved are willing, you may be able to seek a termination of parental rights and step-parent adoption.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 7/20/2011
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