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September 4th / Divorce jasco no comments   0

Do Step-Parents Have Rights in a Divorce in Tennessee?

Many step-parents play a primary role in the upbringing of children. When they make the difficult decision to get divorced, they may worry about how their meaningful relationship with their stepchildren may be affected and what rights they have to continue this relationship. It is important to understand the laws in Tennessee and to seek legal help to ensure your rights are protected.

Step-parent rights

Tennessee lawmakers recognizing the role a stepparent may play in a minor child’s life and allows him or her to assert certain rights once a legal action for divorce, separation or annulment is filed. Even when there is another biological parent involved, a step-parent may have had a significant role in the child’s life that is worth preserving. The step-parent may be awarded reasonable visitation with his or her step-children if he or se can show the following:

Visitation is in the best interests of the child

In legal actions regarding child custody matters, the court uses the “best interests of the child” standard. The court may decide that prohibiting the continuation of the step-parent and step-child relationship may be detrimental to the child. The court uses the following factors when determining what is in the child’s best interests:

  • The nature of the relationship between the parent and child

  • The child’s developmental stage and emotional needs

  • The emotional ties, love and affection between the parent and child

  • Whether the parent has acted as the primary caregiver

  • The ability of the parent to provide for the needs of the child

  • The parent’s fitness to parent

  • Importance of continuity and the duration of which the child has been in a stable environment

  • Any history of domestic violence

  • The work schedules of each parent

  • The child’s preference if at least 12 years old

  • Other relationships such as siblings or other relatives

  • Character and behavior of third parties who are around the parent and child

  • The history of the parent following court orders

  • Any other relevant factors

The step-parent provides financial support to the child

Custody matters are usually treated by the law as completely distinct from child support. A parent usually cannot prohibit a parent from having visitation simply because he or she is not paying child support. However, there is an economic requirement in cases involving step-parents. For a step-parent to be awarded visitation rights, the step-parent must be able to show that he or she is actually providing for or contributing toward the support of the child.

Voluntary agreement

If the parents agree, they can include this agreement as part of their divorce action. They can work out a parenting agreement that outlines this visitation.

Contact a compassionate family law lawyer for assistance

Going through divorce can be very difficult. However, it can be increasingly so when confronted with the thought of being prohibited from continuing your important relationship with your step-children. Fortunately, Tennessee law recognizes the important role that step-parents play in the lives of their step-children. For help asserting these rights in court, contact the Murfreesboro family law attorneys at Dotson & Taylor online or call 615-890-1982 for more information.