You are here

Rights of a Step Parent

My Husband and I are getting a divorce. We have a 1 year old son and also my step son who is 5. His son has lived with us since he was 2 and has minimal contact with his mother. My husband has Full Custody. The question is what are my rights when we divorce? who does my step son live with? what is his father wants him to stay with me and his brother? I know my husband believes this is what is best for him. Does he as the custodial parent have the right to determine that? Do I have visitaion rights? will he see his brother? What do I do?

Share this with your friends

Sorry about your situation, but unless you have formally adopted the child, you cannot simply take custody of the child.  Presumably, your husband has custody pursuant to a court order issued in his prior divorce.  When you go to family court, the judge will have to consider the wishes of the child's mother.  Courts in Massachusetts will always focus on the best interest of the child in custody matters.  So, if the child's mother is out of the picture, perhaps something can be arranged, possibly involving an adoption?  In any case, this issue in not something I have dealt with before, so perhaps you should talk to a family law attorney and let her walk you through the possibilities. 

However, even if you do not get custody, it sounds like you and your husband are focused on what is best for the child.  Under those circumstances, I don't see why visitation will be an issue.  Good luck.



Hi - my ex-husband and I have always attended the parent-teacher conferences for our child. My ex is remarried and his new wife has asked to be a direct part of the meetings with the teacher. While I welcome her input in other areas of life with our child, I've respectfully ask they his father and I be the representatives at these meetings for our child and then afterwards the three of us can discuss. They are just normal parent/teacher meetings. She has told me that it doesn't matter what I want, that she will be there and I can't stop her. I don't want the focus to be on her, I want to maintain the focus of these meetings on my child. I've asked her to respect my position as his mother. As his mother, what are my rights in this matter?


Submitted Mon, 04/04/2016 - 19:16

Thank you for your question.

I'm sorry you are facing divorce and alienation from your step-son at the same time.

Unless you formally adopt your step-child, you will not have the legal rights of a parent. The good news is that there is a simplified form of adoption in Massachusetts called a "step-parent" or "second parent" adoption. Even step-parent adoption requires either the consent of the child's legally established or biological parent or the approval of the court over his or her objection.

You may want to seek an amicable adoption before the divorce is filed or you may want to assert that you have some quasi-parental rights based on your substantial contact with the child and the best interests of the child. Our office has taken on tough cases like these under a variety of circumstances, and I don't recommend that you go it alone.

For any other step parents reading this post, it is so critically important that you speak with an attorney about the possibility of petitioning the court for step-parent adoption.


Submitted Tue, 04/05/2016 - 08:50

I agree with my colleague: to exercise any parental rights over your husband's child, you would need to adopt him. There is, however, a less drastic measure if either you, the bio-parents or the court disagree with an adoption for any reason. There is nothing to stop you and your husband from coming to an agreement that the two brothers will be given opportunity to continue their filial relationship. It can be written into the stipulation of divorce and incorporated into the judgment.

You should consult with an attorney who can more fully explain the options and various procedures for any of these alternatives.

Feel free to contact my office for a free consultation.

Estela Matta, Esq.


Talk to a Divorce Attorney Today
Most offer FREE Consultations
Connect with The Forum
facebook google twitter linkedin