What rights do I have towards my step children? 26 Answers as of August 05, 2011

I am engaged to my fiance who has two children by two different men from past relationships. Their ages are 7 and 12. Both of these men are on their birth certificates but have refused to be any part of their kids lives. What rights do I have after the marriage to be able to gain custody of the children? My fiance has already asked one of them to give up their rights of one of the children and has refused. Is there any way around this?

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Beresford Booth PLLC
Beresford Booth PLLC | S. Scott Burkhalter
You may have custody rights as a de facto parent.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 8/5/2011
Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser
Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser | Donald F. Conviser
The only way that you can get "custody rights" to your step children would be by adopting them in a step-parent adoption. If you can't get the biological father's consent to the adoption, you would need to request that the Adoption Court terminate his parental rights, which can be done only if he has neither contacted nor provided any support for his child for the lastyear.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 7/28/2011
Wallin & Klarich: A Law Corporation
Wallin & Klarich: A Law Corporation | Paul Wallin
You have no legal right to become the parent to these children absent the natural fathers agreeing in writing to a step parent adoption.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 7/28/2011
Law Office of Robert L. Fiedler
Law Office of Robert L. Fiedler | Robert L Fiedler
Unfortunately, you are just a step-father and have no legal rights over the children.
Answer Applies to: Connecticut
Replied: 7/26/2011
Law Office of Roianne H. Conner
Law Office of Roianne H. Conner | Roianne Houlton Conner
Unless you adopt the children after marriage you have no legal rights to your step children.
Answer Applies to: Alabama
Replied: 7/26/2011
    Law Office of Michael W. Bugni
    Law Office of Michael W. Bugni | Jay W. Neff
    If you marry this woman, then, you become the stepfather of the children. If none of the biological parents happen to be around, then, you, as the step parent are in charge. Paraphrasing our court of appeals in a case from a couple of years ago: You have voluntarily assumed all the obligations and beneficent attitudes of a natural parent toward an unemancipated minor child. Of course, the rights of the biological parents are superior to your rights. Therefore, if a biological parent is around, that person's rights and obligations override yours. To get any rights beyond that, you are going to have to do a stepparent adoption. If the biological father(s) consent to this, then, it is a relatively straight forward procedure. It results in all of the rights and obligations of the biological father being terminated and you put into his place. If the bio-father(s) are unwilling to consent, then, you have a much bigger problem. That is because the only way to complete a stepparent adoption in such conditions is to have the bio-father declared "unfit" by the court. This is hard, often impossible, to do. You will almost surely need expert assistance.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Law Office Of Jody A. Miller
    Law Office Of Jody A. Miller | Jody A. Miller
    If neither father has been in their lives and not paid court-ordered child support, then she can see an attorney about filing a petition to terminate the father's rights in juvenile court. Otherwise, you can wait for awhile after you get married and you are technically their step-father for some time, and then you can file a contested adoption petition in superior court.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP | Christine Gonilla
    no rights
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Meriwether & Tharp LLC
    Meriwether & Tharp LLC | Patrick Meriwether
    In Georgia, you can file for a step-parent adoption after you have married your fiance. If the biological fathers object, you can have a contested hearing and the Court can decide at that hearing whether to terminate the biological fathers' rights.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    The Coyle Law Office
    The Coyle Law Office | T. Andrew Coyle
    You could petition to adopt the children, but doing so would require that notice be sent to the biological father. The father would then have the right to contest the adoption proceeding if he so chose.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Donaldson Stewart, PC
    Donaldson Stewart, PC | Monica H. Donaldson Stewart
    A parent cannot share legal custody with a non-parent (e.g. a stepparent cannot have joint legal custody with the biological parent); however, if one or both of the fathers have legally abandoned the children, you might be able to terminate that father's rights and adopt that child (after you are married). This is a complicated legal issue that I recommend you discuss further with an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Arizona
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Seattle Divorce Services
    Seattle Divorce Services | Michael V. Fancher
    For you to gain parental rights during the marriage you would need to adopt the children, thereby substituting in as the legal parent in place of the biological parent. If the biological parent will not consent, you would need to convince the court that the biological parent's parental status should be terminated involuntarily.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Arnold & Wadsworth
    Arnold & Wadsworth | Brian Arnold
    No, they are going to have to give up their rights in order for you to adopt them. You can start by putting the pressure on them by filing an order to show cause on back child support, or start your own action to get rid of their parental rights based abandonment.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Vincent J. Bernabei LLC
    Vincent J. Bernabei LLC | Vincent J. Bernabei
    You should adopt them. Then the children become your children.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Apple Law Firm PLLC
    Apple Law Firm PLLC | David Goldman
    Sometimes the parents are willing to give up their rights in exchange for paying child support. Are they paying child support? If not your spouse can bring an action with a lawyer to establish child support and this may put you in a better position to negotiate or cover the expenses of the child.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Correia-Champa & Mailhot
    Correia-Champa & Mailhot | Susan Correia Champa
    You cannot force a parent to give up parental rights. Parental rights can be terminated for various reasons, such as abuse or neglect. Unless you adopt these children (which you cannot do without parental approval from all parents) then you cannot obtain any parental rights, unless you gain guardianship on conjunction with the rights of your spouse as a physical custodian. I would contact an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Law Office of Richard B. Kell
    Law Office of Richard B. Kell | Richard B. Kell
    Unfortunately, there is really no way around this without a consented-to adoption. This is one of those areas of law which really needs to be amended to accommodate step-parents who are much better suited for custody than the biological parent. All you can do is try to be the best step-parent possible, and I guarantee that one day the children will appreciate you for being there for them.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Ashman Law Office
    Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
    After your marriage, at some point you might petition to adopt them. You will need an attorney. In some cases that can be done over the objection of a father.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    Since you have no legal relationship to the children, successfully seeking custody would be difficult and unlikely unless the biological parent endangered the children in some way. Moreover, seeking custody would require serving both parents if the father's are adjudicated. That does not mean you cannot seek visitation with the children based on your lengthy relationship in a parent type role.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Law Office of James Lentz
    Law Office of James Lentz | James Lentz
    Maybe. But not without a fight. You will need to petition the court and serve the fathers with notice of your intent., They can object, but usually when told their child support future obligation goes away with the adoption, they sign off on it. There are no guarantees, but if your love the children, I say go for it. Please see a domestic relations attorney near you for more information.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law | John Kirchner
    Virtually none. Once you have been married to the mother for a year you may petition the court for a step-parent adoption that will result in you having all the same legal rights as a natural parent. Until then, you are legally no different than a stranger on the street. A court can grant the adoption over the objection of the biological fathers if they have abandoned the child or failed to pay child support for the year preceding filing the petition for adoption.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    We have handled a number of step-parent adoptions and we recommen that you retain a lawyer ASAP to go over all the facts, along with your rights and options. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Gregory T. Buckley, Attorney at Law
    Gregory T. Buckley, Attorney at Law | Gregory T. Buckley
    Unless they are willing to voluntarily terminate their parental rights as part of a step-parent adoption, itcan bevery difficult to have their right terminated.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Glenn E. Tanner
    Glenn E. Tanner | Glenn E. Tanner
    You have no rights unless you file a third party custody action proving both parents unfit.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 7/26/2011
    Petit & Dommershausen SC
    Petit & Dommershausen SC | Tajara Dommershausen
    Unless you either get them to voluntarily terminate their parental rights or have a court involuntarily terminate their parental rights, you don't have any claim on them for custody. If you got divorced, you could ask for visitation as a person with a parent like relationship but courts are often reluctant to set a specific schedule.
    Answer Applies to: Wisconsin
    Replied: 7/26/2011
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