Marriage mentoring – While it is great that divorcees are remarrying and giving their children a two-parent family again, the rights of step parents are often unclear. In this marriage mentoring article we will discuss what are a stepfather’s rights and responsibilities. The answer is that, even if the new step dad pays all the bills and raises the child, a biological father usually has more parental rights, says marriage restoration expert.
Step Parenting Children
Marrying someone with children can be one of the most difficult things in the world. Love marriage problem may arise. However, with some insight, boundaries, and love, it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences in the world.
Stepfathers Rights and Biological Dad’s Rights
Here is a common example:
A man with no children marries a woman with a child. Does the stepfather have the same rights (and responsibilities) as the child’s biological father?
While rights and responsibilities of step parents vary from state to state, the general answer is “No”, except in unusual circumstances. A step dad does not have the same rights. A child’s mother and biological father have the same rights and responsibilities as before the mother’s remarriage, unless:
- The biological father’s rights have been legally taken away from him
- The biological father has legally relinquished his rights
This is an important concept for a stepfather to understand, because there are times when the new dad needs to take a step back, suggests marriage restoration professional.
Of course, there are many variations of what “rights and responsibilities” are assigned to all three “parents”. So, a person who has specific questions, or feels that things are getting out of control, should consult with a family law attorney who knows the appropriate state laws and can review the specific facts.
Stepfather Disciplining Children
Can the biological father tell the new stepfather what to do and how child discipline should be handled by the new father in the family? No. However, the two fathers should not be having this conversation, at all. The biological father should be discussing his concerns with his ex-wife, the child’s mother.
The new stepdad needs to stay out of the fray and remain as neutral as possible. Legally, it is not his role to get involved in the conflict.
On the other hand, just because the stepfather needs to take a step back from the bickering, he should not step back from his involvement with his stepson or stepdaughter. It is still important for a “new” dad to do his best to guide and care for his stepchild, and to remain an active part of the child’s life.
In general, courts have determined that it is okay to have one set of “house rules” in one home and a different set of “house rules” in the other (as long as the discipline does not constitute child abuse).
It is better for the child if the rules in both houses are similar, but children can adapt to two different parenting styles, if necessary.
Stepdad vs Dad
Any situation involving an ex-husband, an ex-wife, and her new husband is going to be emotionally charged. There are jealousies, hurt feelings, vengeful thoughts, loneliness, and feelings of having lost control.
Sometimes an ex-husband and ex-wife are not on speaking terms, so the new husband feels like it is his responsibility to control the situation or to protect his new wife and child from problems. Well, on a gut level, this makes sense; however, in the end this approach creates more tension and more problems for all members of the family, including the child. If a stepfather and biological father are in a war, the child will feel torn by loyalties.
Need Help of Family Mediator
What’s the best way to handle a situation where one father is telling the other one how to parent?
The child’s mother should explain to her ex that he cannot control the “house rules” in the new home. In addition, she can listen to her ex-husband’s points of view, but she should let her ex know that (unless there is child abuse) a discussion of her parenting style is off limits.
If the mother and biological father cannot work this out in a reasonable manner, they should have this discussion with the help of a family court counselor or a family therapy mediator. The two households must learn to respect each other’s boundaries.
The role of a stepfather can be tough when a step dad wants to take an active role in his stepchild’s upbringing. However, it is up to the child’s mother and biological father to work out conflicts.