As it is increasingly common for couples to divorce and remarry, the likelihood of a step-parent becoming involved in the upbringing of the child is extremely high. Parental rights for a step-parent are often unclear, especially if the relationship with the child’s parent has ended.
It is only natural to develop parental instincts when spending a large portion of time in a child’s upbringing. However, if the relationship with the parent has ended it may be difficult to maintain a relationship with the child.
Some relationships end with a mutual understanding that it is for the best interest of the child that the step-parent continues to have a parental relationship. But this is not the case for all separations. If the relationship has ended in a hostile manner, the parent may prevent the child from having any further relationship with the step-parent, even if this goes against the child’s wishes. In this case it might be beneficial to seek professional guidance, to determine whether you have a strong enough case to pursue the issue further.
Anyone can apply to the court for a Child Arrangements Order (formerly a contact order) but not everyone can do so as of right. Anyone else will need permission from the court to make an application. Provided you can show that you had a close connection with the child and that there will be no harm to the child by making of the application, permission to make the application is likely to be granted.
A step-parent, who was married to, or a civil partner to a parent who has parental responsibility, can apply for a Child Arrangements Order without permission. Even if you have not been married or in a civil partnership with the parent there are some other circumstances where you can apply without permission.
It is undoubtedly an emotional and difficult time when fighting for rights over a child, especially if you are not a biological parent. Each case is unique, therefore to fully understand your rights as a step-parent it is best to consult with a professional family lawyer who could examine the situation in detail. For further information on step-parents’ rights, speak to one of our experienced and sensitive family solicitors directly by calling on 01792 468684.