How Does a Step-Parent Get Custody of His Stepchildren?

In every legal action involving children, they are the focus of the proceedings. Blended families make up 40% of households in the United States. In such families, at least one of the spouses has a child from a prior relationship. 

Many step parents often wonder if they can have legal custody of their children. Though the stepparents may love the child as their own, they have few legal parenting rights. Filing child custody as a stepparent can be a complex process. 

This is because a step-parent is not a biological parent. The court will often consider the biological parents first in child custody fights. Yet, with the help of child custody lawyers, you can win child custody rights. 

This article discusses how to win child custody as a father. We will also help you navigate all legalities involved in filing child custody. Let’s get right to it!

What to Know about Child Custody Law

Child custody law, which is a part of family law, varies between states. Still, a common factor is that stepparents often cannot take care of the kids due to legal boundaries. This becomes a problem when the biological parents are deceased or unavailable. 

In situations such as domestic abuse and violence, the stepparent may also be unable to step into parent roles. In some cases, you might be unable to get custody as a stepparent without prior legal guardianship of the child. 

So, a great place to start a custody process might be to apply for legal guardianship. This way, you have more rights and responsibilities for the child. And as such, applying for part or full custody becomes easier.

Types of Custody

When seeking custody over a child, it is crucial to understand that there are different custody types. In general, custody is either physical or legal. Both parents of a child can have these two, or the court can grant sole custody to one parent.

Physical Custody

The court awards this custody to a parent to live with the child. If the court grants joint physical custody to both parents, they must share equal living time with the child throughout the year.

Legal Custody 

The court awards this type of custody to one or both parents of a child. This is often after a separation or if one of the parents is unavailable. The legal parent holds all the rights and responsibilities of the child until they are 18 years old.

How to Get a Child Custody

As a stepfather, the process of getting legal custody of your child can be complex, yet it is possible. Families evolve, with new members taking on parental responsibilities. These responsibilities may equal or exceed those of the biological parents.

Strong relationships between kids and stepparents can emerge over time. This lays the groundwork for a child’s growth and well-being. The courts take this into account. 

Therefore biological parents should know that it is not a given that they will have custody of their kids instead of their stepparents.

The main consideration when determining custody will be what is in the kids’ best interests. This is most important, not what is convenient for the biological parent or stepparent.

The court often takes the following factors into consideration when deciding on stepparent custody:

  • Health and emotional well-being of the child (not just now but also in the future)
  • What the child wants or desires (if applicable)
  • The child’s need for stability, the child’s love and affection for other significant individuals in their life
  • Who has previously raised the child, and how effectively did they raise them?

The courts will eventually consider what is best for the child. It will also consider the stepparent’s capacity to provide for and care for the child. This is even if a step-parent has the right to ask for custody of a child.

When Can a Step-parent Get Custody?

The court may grant custody to the step-parent when:

  • There is evidence that the kid would suffer harm if visitation with the stepparent were refused.  
  •  When there is evidence that visitation with the stepparent is in the child’s best interests
  • If there is proof that the kid’s biological parent is unfit to act as the child’s primary caregiver, another viable party may fill the position. 
  •  The kid’s best interests may be served by the stepparent being granted custody. For instance, if the mother is abusive, suffers from a mental condition, cannot support herself or the child, or is involved in unlawful activity, the parenting custody can be granted to the stepfather.
  • In conditions where the biological parents rescind custody to the step-parents 

Of course, the court will also take into account the relationship between the stepparent and the stepchild, how long that relationship has existed, and other factors.

Again, there are numerous examples in which stepparents and stepchildren ignore the fact that they are not connected biologically. This implies that the step-parents treat the children with love and care. In such cases, it is only logical to grant custody to the step-parents.

Steps in Stepparent Adoption

To adopt or get custody of a child, the court must check the following:

  • If the stepparent is the biological parent’s partner. To legally adopt a child, you must be married to the biological parent. This gives the court confidence in the stability of the home
  • The biological parent must give away their parenting rights. 
  • You must employ the service of a child custody lawyer. This lawyer must have experience in the state’s family law
  • Your spouse must consent to the adoption of the child
  • If the child in question is over 14 years old, they must also consent to the custody
  • The court will also check that your home and living conditions are suitable for raising the child.


The lives of the stepchildren often revolve around their stepparents. So, many stepparents are unclear on what to do when their relationships are threatened by divorce or the loss of one.

To find the best solution for the kids, stepparents and biological parents work together. Breaking the bonds a stepparent has with their stepchildren is rarely helpful, especially if they are a reliable source of stability. 

Stepparents who experience a lot of tension may want to speak with a family law expert for guidance on how to proceed. Stepparents might choose to ask for visitation. This way, they can continue to have a close relationship with their stepchildren.

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