Step families and ‘blended’ families are a very common feature of modern life. The definition of a step parent also appears to becoming more and more wide ranging. Step parents are often viewed as anyone who has taken on the role of a parent whether through divorce, death or otherwise. Step parenting now seem to encompass more situations than ever before but the legal definition of a step parent is very specific:-

Step-mother – A woman who is married to one’s father after the divorce of one’s parents or the death of one’s mother.

Step-father – A man who is married to one’s mother after the divorce of one’s parents or the death of one’s father.

[Oxford dictionary]

So, a step parent only becomes a step parent upon marriage to one of the biological parents. You are not a step parent from a legal perspective if you are only living together with your partner – no matter how long for.

Resolving children issues following a separation

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Typically, a stepparent doesn’t have any legal ‘custody’ rights to stepchildren. This can have a very profound impact on the workings of a blended family. Step parents are very likely to develop close relationships with children who may of course also be in close contact with both their biological parents. The law places considerable importance on the rights and responsibility of birth parents but what rights and responsibilities do step parents acquire when they marry a child’s birth parent?

Picture this:

You have recently married your spouse who has two children, Lily and Harry. Your spouse is at brownie camp with Lily for a few days leaving you to care for Harry at home. Harry is out playing football with his mates at the park. You get a visit from a police officer who tells you that Harry has been in a fight and has harmed another boy. He is also injured and has been taken to hospital in an ambulance. He needs an operation on his broken jaw and the police also want to question him further about his behaviour. You cannot get hold of Harry’s mother or his biological father. What do you do and more importantly what are you allowed to do? The answer lies in whether you have ‘Parental Responsibility’ or not.

This post forms part of a series of articles on the FLP blog on the subject of step-families and step-parenting. We are proud to have Kim Crewe, Family Consultant with Separation Matters, on board as a guest blogger.

Kim will be exploring the impact of new family structures on the whole family – her first post explores the perspective of the children. Read the post here: www.familylawpartners.co.uk/blog/changing-family-structures-living-in-a-stepfamily

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118 responses to “New blends –  the legal definition of step-parenting

  1. do you cease to be a step mother if you are no longer married to the biological father due to death, the step children are 26 and 30

    1. Dear Joy. You will still be a step parent to them although this does not have any legal status for inheritance purposes unless they were adopted by you when they were children.

    2. What happens if my husband dies and my step daughter who I have been raising since she was 6. Is now 14. And the birth mother has never been around. Now out if no where want to take her from me… do I have any rights my daughter doesn’t know her birth mother and doesn’t want anything to do with her

    3. Dear Jasmin, thank you for your comment. Your situation is complex and how you proceed from here will depend on a number of factors. I would recommend that you seek advice from a Resolution family lawyer as soon as possible.

    1. Dear Sherry. Thank you for your question. A step parent is someone a mother or father marries after the marriage or relationship with the other parent has ended or that parent has died. Legally a step parent only becomes a step parent on marriage to one of the biological parents. As you will have read a step-parent does not automatically have any legal custody or parental responsibility rights. Parental responsibility and being a biological parent are separate from each other. A father usually acquires parental responsibility if he is either married to the child’s mother or if the child was born after 01 December 2003 and he is named on the child’s birth certificate. It makes no difference whether he has ‘custody’ or not. I note your comment that your ex has “no parental rights (custody)” and I would advise caution in this respect. Custody does not necessarily mean that one parent has more ‘rights’ than the other. Custody is also a very specific term which is only relevant if there is a court order stating that the child lives with one parent and not the other. The more important issue is whether your ex has parental responsibility (PR) and I would advise you to refer to our factsheet about PR and our other articles regarding step-parenting.

  2. My ex partner, a woman as we were in a same sex relationship and did not have a civil partnership or marriage has recently been granted PR and contact. I left with our daughter, who we had with the help of a donor to flee dv. I am the biological mother. My ex has a partner who she has been with since we split, who my 8 year old daughter was first introduced to only a few days ago. My ex told my daughter that her partner, who she is not yet married to, that she is her step mum! They are going to marry they say, but does it still apply in this situation? When married will she be my daughters step parent? Even though my ex is not her biological parent?

    1. Dear Julie, I can see you are concerned because the use of ‘step mother’ seems to suggest some form of legal status. That is not the case. I assume that once your former partner marries her new partner the new spouse will be having regular contact with your daughter as she will be living with your daughter’s mother. However, the marriage does not give your former partner’s spouse parental responsibility, which is the legal recognition of being a parent/carer and is the rights, responsibilities and duties that a person has in respect of a child or a child’s property. It may be that mediation might be sensible or you could look to use a Resolution trained family consultant to help you. Part of the work might be to look at agreeing a parenting plan. I hope that helps.

  3. If my spouse has children with another woman without marriage and i am legally married to my spouse, are the children my step children and am i their step mom?
    There was no marriage whatsoever between their mom and my husband, are they my sstep children?

    1. Thank you for your comment. Yes the children are your step-children following your marriage to their father. However, as you will have read a step-parent doesn’t have any automatic legal rights in respect of their step-children.

    2. Thank you for your helpful website. My son has two children with his wife, and a stepson who was born to his wife in a previous relationship (she never married the biological father). The family treat the stepson in exactly the same way as the other children. I wish to add a codicil to my will in order clarify which children should inherit my son’s share of the estate if he should he pre-decease me. Should I include the words ‘his stepson’ in front of his full name, or simply use his full name?

    3. Dear Ian, thank you for your email. I would suggest that you speak to the lawyer who is drawing up the Will for you.

  4. Questions have came up in my relationship with my life partner. Her two young sons are confused on what to call me and to call themselves. And I am too. I would say they are closer to my step kids verses my nephews, even though her and I aren’t married. I am not looking to be legally responsible for them. I just want them to be comfortable and I to be comfortable. That would be great for a little advise how to handle this problem

    1. Dear Cindi, thank you for your comment. Unfortunately we are only able to advise on the legal implications of step parenting. However, I would recommend that you speak to a Family Consultant who is a member of Resolution who will be able to assist you further.

  5. Okay, my wife has 3 children from a previous relationship ages 4y, 2y, and 1y. The “biological father” turned his back and walked away from them when they were 2y, 1y, and 3months old. I’ve been in their lives consistently for a little over 2 years now and we’ve been a happy family. These wonderful children call me dad and didn’t even know who the bio father was until recently. My wife and I got married and also have a child in common that the other 3 children call sister. We’ve recently been taken to court by the bio father because he’s trying to skip out on child support from ANOTHER child with a previous girl! Anyway, he’s getting visitation now, and he’s angry that the children call me dad. WHAT did he expect? I’m all they KNOW as a dad. He made a big fuss in court about it and now its supposedly court ordered that my kids can’t call me dad. They say it can prove us unfit parents! Is this legal? Isn’t that taking my children’s right to free speech? And we’re married! Doesn’t that make me legally a step parent? Look up the definition of step father. Can I fight this?

    1. Thank you for your comment. I am assuming that you and your wife are both parties’ to legal proceedings in England and Wales commenced by the children’s biological father. You say that it is “supposedly court ordered” that the children are no longer allowed to call you dad. Have you actually seen such a court order? The courts of England and Wales do not have jurisdiction to make such an order. If anything, it would have been recorded as a recital to the order having been agreed between you (if a party), your wife and the children’s biological father. Recitals set out background information such as declarations and agreements entered into between parties’ to proceedings which do not fall within the jurisdiction of the court to order. Recitals are not enforceable. I advise that you obtain a copy of this alleged court order before taking further advice from a specialist family solicitor.

  6. My partner and I are planning to get married next year. I have 2 children from a previous relationship with agreed 50/50 shared custody.My new wife (to be) is concerned about the title of Step mother and the implications of this, ie, are there any legal implications or financial responsibilities, such as maintenance with my previous partner. Having read the previous blogs I believe that parental responsibility is not assumed. However, I have not seen the other points answered. My partner has a great relationship with my girls (age 11 & 14) and we dont want this to change through marriage and any other changes in legal responsibilities.

    1. Dear Derek, thank you for reading the blog and commenting. It is great to hear that your new partner has a great relationship with your children. There aren’t any automatic legal implications of obtaining the title “step mother” – you have already noticed that parental responsibility is not assumed. However you may want to think about the practicalities of this with your former partner particularly if your new wife will be involved in the children’s care. Communication is always key. There are no financial responsibilities placed upon your wife towards your children. Your previous partner cannot make any financial claim against your wife for being a step parent to the children. The main issue to be aware of is that in the event that you and your wife divorce in the future and your wife has assumed responsibility for the maintenance of your children during your marriage, you may potentially have a claim against her for financial provision/support for your children following your divorce (if they are deemed as having been treated as “children of the family”). Your wife to be may also seek an order that the children are able to spend time with her. I hope this clarifies things for you and may I wish you all the best for your forthcoming marriage. I trust you have given thought to a pre-nuptial agreement and you should consider life insurance and making a Will.

  7. I have been in a relationship with my fiance for 10 years. We will be married next year. He has 2 kids with his previous relationship (as they were never married) and I have practically raised the 2 boys myself. She lost the kids do to being on drugs and went through a nasty few years where she wasn’t really around so I stepped in. The kids consider me the stepmom and love me very much, as I love them very much as well. Now we have joint custody with their bio mom with their father still having the higher custody % and noted as the “primary”. She has recently started her crazy spells again saying I am not their stepmother. We live in SC where we are considered for now “common law” married and next year we will “legally” be married with legal papers. Is it safe to say I am their step mother now as well with just the common law? Just curious as she keeps throwing this in our face and has been brain washing the kids when they go to her house for her week telling them I’m not their stepmother even after the past 9 years that’s what they have known me as? Advice needed please… thank you

    1. Dear Ashley. Thank you for reading the blog and for posting. It appears you are not resident in England and Wales. We are only able to assist with laws relating to the jurisdiction of England and Wales. I would recommend that you seek advice from a lawyer who is more local to you. I wish you luck.

  8. Step Father has had Step Parent Parental Responsibility Agreement for 3 years but never contributed financially or taken on responsibility. What are his rights regarding contact after divorce. he wants 50/50 custody but my 12 year old only wants to see him once a month? (I have applied for the Court to discharge PR and for her to live with me)

    1. Dear Nicola. Thank you for reading the blog and for commenting. In the absence of an agreement between you, your daughter’s step father would need to make an application for a Child Arrangements Order if he wishes for your daughter to live with him for 50% of the time. As you have already made an application to discharge the PR and for your daughter to live with you I suspect the court will want to address the arrangements and relationship between your daughter and her step father. Given the age of your daughter her wishes and feelings will be considered but there are a number of other factors that the court will take into account when addressing child arrangements whether for step parents or biological parents. Please have a look at the children section of our website. I would advise you to seek legal advice from a Resolution lawyer.

  9. Married for five years to non biological mother, Im biological parent with full residence of my son, Now we have seperated What rights does the step parent have to access as biological mother wants to stop step mum from seeing Son

    1. Dear Matthew, thank you for your comment. As you will have read step-parents do not have any automatic legal rights to their step children. In the absence of an agreement between you, your son’s step mother would need to make an application for a Child Arrangements Order. Before doing, in some circumstances the step mother may have to apply for the court’s ‘permission’ to make an application for an order that your son spends time with her. I hope this helps.

  10. Good morning,
    A step parent is someone a mother or father marries after the marriage or relationship with the other parent has ended or that parent has died. Legally a step parent only becomes a step parent on marriage to one of the biological parents. Therefore legally, is a step father is not longer the step parent of the child whose biological mother has dies and the step father remarried?

    1. Step parent is the name for the spouse of a parent. There is no legal status unless the step parent acquires parental responsibility by a step parent agreement or order. The parental responsibility ends when the child is 18 years. The relationship often continues, whether parental responsibility or not, because there is a bond between the step parent and the child depending on how long they were cared for by the step parent and how close the relationship was. I hope this helps.

  11. My mum remarried in 1966 following the death of my father. I was an only child and ages 21. My Mum died in 1979 when I was 33 years old. My stepfather got everything in the estate and I got nothing. He lived in my Mums bungalow until this year when he passed away at the age of 86.
    Following my Mums death he moved another woman in to live with him as his partner. I have not seen him for years but I really thought I would get my inheritance upon his death as he did not remarry.
    After doing some digging I have found out that he “sold” my Mums bungalow to his partners 2 children in October 2014 just before his partner passed away. I doubt very much that any money changed hands. We are talking about a total of around £200.000.
    Do I have any rights over this? I feel I have been robbed of my rightful inheritance that my Mum and Dad worked hard to obtain.
    I do not want this for myself as I am in the last chapter of my life but I have 2 children who my Mum adored. I also have 5 grand children and 7 great grandchildren.
    Do I have any rights over this? When my stepfather married my Mum he was single and living at home with his parents. He moved into my Mums home with just 2 suitcases containing his clothes!
    I have even thought about writing a letter to his partners 2 children who have in fact got my incoherence. They are both very rich anyway and certainly don’t need to deprive my family of what is morally theirs.
    Any advice would be very much appreciated. thank you

    1. Dear Pamela,

      We are unable to give specific advice on these blog post comments particularly as we do not have time to check the law as it applied to some of the events that you describe which took place nearly 50 years ago. Generally speaking, adult children do not have an automatic right to inherit from their parents or step parents. What is not clear is what happened when your father died and what age you were when that happened. Although this is going back some time, did your father have a Will and did he make any provision for you? If he did have a Will then it is likely he left all his estate to your mother. If he did not have a valid Will when he died then a set of rules called the intestacy provisions should have created a statutory trust for you subject to the value of the estate at the time.

      Similarly, when you mother died in 1979, if she had a valid Will then she could have made some provision for you. If she did not have a valid Will then the intestacy provisions should have given you an interest subject to certain rules on the value of the estate.

      When your stepfather died do you know if he had a valid Will? You should check to see if you were named in the Will. If you were named in the Will then the ‘sale’ of your step father’s house to his partner’s children might the subject of further enquiry but we cannot say more on the present facts.

      You could write to the partner’s children as you suggest pointing out your belief that you expected to receive an interest. If they agreed, it is possible for those children, as beneficiaries of the estate, to execute a Deed of Variation which changes the provisions of a Will to give a third party (you) an interest in the estate. It would be entirely a voluntary act on their behalf so you could not demand a change but rather appeal to their conscience.

  12. My Father remarried after divorcing my mom when I was 10 . I never lived with them and she was never a mother figure in my life. Is she considered my step mother?. I am now 52

    1. Dear Mike, thank you for your comment. Yes she would be your step mother as she was married to your biological father. However as you will have read the label ‘step mother’ does not provide any form of legal status.

  13. I am a step mother with parental responsibility. I am divorced from the biological father and the step children live with me in the family home. Ex husband has a new partner and will marry soon. She will legally become a step parent but not have PR. Will I still have PR? Can I easily adopt in this situation? Natural mother passed 9 years ago.

    1. Parental Responsibility is the legal status. If you have PR through an Order or agreement it cannot end except by agreement, order or the children becoming adults. I hope this assists.

  14. my sons mother is in a new long term relationship with her new partner (seems to be a decent bloke) is insisting that he is my sons step dad and that she is his kids step mum . i tried to point out that he would only be a step parent if they got married but she keeps insisting that he is my sons step dad . to be fair to her though she did say he isnt my sons dad but step dad . i still dont like it as my sons autism means he dosen’t really understand whats going on but will go along with whatever his mum says ( not my sons fault as he cant help it just so were clear ). what can i do to try make her understand my point ?

    1. Dear Damian. The terms ‘step mum’ or ‘step dad’ are usually used when a couple have married and, although commonly used, it does not give any legal status.

  15. I married my same sex partner Lyn in September last year. I am now step-mum to her 4 kids who I love as my own and who’s lives I have been a part of for the last 3 years.
    Dad sees the children’s regularly and we all have a good amicable relationship to ensure the children are supported. We have discussed getting PR for myself, Dad is happy to go ahead with this as long as it doesn’t take anything away from him. If we are all in agreement how easy and how costly is it to get PR in place for myself? Is there anyway to fast track this if all parties are in full agreement and there are no issues of contention to iron out?
    We are currently working with social services (at our own request) to try to get additional help for the children at school, medically and at home (3 of our children are disabled) and it has become apparent that some professionals want to write me out of discussions and decision making despite me being one of the primary carers on a day to day basis. We are thinking that PR will prevent this from happening

    1. If you have the consent of everyone who holds parental responsibility for the children then you can obtain parental responsibility by entering into a Step Parent Parental Responsibility Agreement. The Agreement form is available on the Court website here. Details of how to complete the form and what you need to do to formally register the Agreement can be found on the reverse of the form. You should seek legal advice before you enter into the Agreement if you are unclear as to how the Agreement will affect the legal position with regards to the parenting of the children. I hope this helps.

  16. My father was married 3 times…. My mother being his first wife … is the second divorced wife of my father still my step mother?? My father and his second wife both married someone else about 15 years ago.

    1. It depends why you are asking the question because a “step-parent” is not a legal concept as such, it is just a name/label. What is important is the context of the relationship.

  17. I have an ex wife who is taking me to court for access to see my biological son, his mother has passed some time ago, and I have remarried now what rights does my now wife have, why does my ex have regarding my son

    1. The focus of the law in England and Wales is not on what rights your ex wife has to see your son but what is in your son’s best interests. Whether it would be in your son’s best interests to have a relationship with your ex wife and what your current wife’s legal status is in relation to your son will depend on the individual facts of your situation. You should seek legal advice. You can find the details of a specialist lawyer local to you on the Resolution website.

  18. Thank you for a fascinating thread.
    My question concerns the new Residence Nil Rate Band for Inheritance Tax. I gather the property can be passed on to step-children. However if the marriage which created the step-children (their mother’s previous husband had died) took place when the step-children were over 18 years of age are those children still considered as step-children for the purposes this aspect of Inheritance tax?

    1. Dear James, thank you for your comment. Unfortunately we cannot advise on inheritance tax implications and would recommend that you seek advice from an accountant/tax advisor and/or a tax planning lawyer.

  19. I married my wife 3 years ago and I have an 11 year old stepson whose father passed away 7 years ago. I am in the process of adopting him, but we have drifted apart and are about to separate. I am very close to my stepson and want to continue the process of adopting him and my wife also would like this, particularly as he would remain with me during the week for the sake of his school etc. GIven that we are separating, would I still be allowed to adopt?

    1. If you and your wife are getting divorced you would not be able to adopt your stepson as the court need to be satisfied that you are married to the child’s mother or living with the child’s mother as partners in an enduring family relationship. The local authority social worker that would need to report to the court about your suitability to adopt must have regard to the need for stability and permanence in your relationship with the child’s mother. There are other legal steps that can be taken to formalise the parenting arrangements for your stepson if you and your wife are separating such as obtaining parental responsibility and having a child arrangements order in place defining the living arrangements for him. You should seek legal advice from a specialist family law solicitor local to you. I hope this assists.

  20. Can I legally prevent the step-mother from being the one bringing my son home and picking him up for visitation? She always brings drama over and is very disrespectful to me and I just can’t take it anymore and do not even want her on my property anymore.

    1. Dear Kayla, thank you for your comment. It appears you may be resident in the US which means we cannot provide any legal advice as we are based in the UK. I would suggest you speak to a lawyer in your local area.

  21. My wife moved out of the house and I have been raising our son(her son) since he has 2yrs old and now he is 7yrs old. I am more closer to the child than him to his mother. He prefer spending time with me.
    At the moment I haven’t spoken to the boy since last week.
    If we decided to divorce what recourse do I have on the child. I’m more concerned with the son than my wife. Will this separation affect him at school

    1. The legal process of a divorce is separate to the legal process to sort out the arrangements for children. If the child is not biologically yours consideration will need to be given to how his relationship with you should be maintained going forwards so his best interests are met. You would need to establish whether you have parental responsibility for the child, and if not whether it should be obtained. If you don’t have parental responsibility it wouldn’t necessarily prevent you from being involved in the child’s life going forwards even if you are divorced from the child’s mother, but specific details of your circumstances would need to be considered in order to advise you of your options. There are lots of steps that can be taken to minimise the impact of a divorce on children including using online resources (such as CAFCASS Parenting Plan, Splitting Up – Put Kids First, Resolution), parenting after parting courses, family consultants, mediation, the collaborative process and seeking legal advice from a lawyer who is a member of Resolution (the national governing body for family lawyers who have signed up to work within a code that ensures the children’s best interests are prioritised).

  22. Myself and my ex have dissolved our civil partnership we have a separation agreement in place all done through solicitors as I have 2 children who were conceived through a donor through home insemination. She has regular contact with the kids but nothing to do with there daily life school or nothing I update her with any changes or things that happen. The issue seems to be because the kids don’t call her mum as I am there mum although they do call her mum when she has them just not at my home I don’t refer to her as there mum either. I am about to get married in 3weeks time to my partner of 3yrs who has brought my kids up since they were 14mth old they call her mamma and she does everything and more for them. After we are married we are going to file for my partner to adopt the boys to give her parental rights as she is involved with everyday life with the kids we are also having more children with the same donor which will be biologically linked to my kids. I know own my ex will disagree to the adoption what would be our next step? Would also like to point out we don’t want to stop kids seeing ex just want the parental rights to be passed in my partner

    1. A child can only have 2 legal parents. Biology doesn’t always determine who is the legal parent and even if someone is not legally or biologically a parent they maybe regarded as a psychological parent. Just because someone is legally a parent doesn’t mean they have parental responsibility for the child.
      Who the legal parents are and who has parental responsibility depends on the circumstances around conception and subsequent steps that may have been taken after the birth of the child to formalise the legal position. Assuming your ex is a legal parent of the child and/or has parental responsbility her consent to the adoption would be required. In the first instance I recommend working as a family with a family consultant and/or specialist family law mediator to help you, your current partner and your ex all work together to try and reach an agreement in relation to the legal parental structure, parenting, and general role/involvement of everyone in the children’s upbringings to ensure the children’s best interests can be met. The law relating to parental rights of same sex couples is complicated and therefore a specific answer to your question on the limited information available about the facts of your case is not possible within this response to your blog post.

      If we are able to help please get in touch. Otherwise you can find a lawyer and / or mediator local to you online.

  23. Hi My Wife and I (same sex marriage) are about to seperate and she had a child before we got together. As I am married to her can she legally stop me from seeing our daughter who I have helped raise since she was 18 months old. Do I have any rights at all?

    1. Dear Emily, thank you for your comment. As you will have read step-parents do not have any automatic legal rights to their step children. In the absence of an agreement between you and your wife you would need to make an application for a Child Arrangements Order. Before doing so, in some circumstances you may have to apply for the court’s ‘permission’ to make an application for an order that your step daughter spends time with you – this is dependent on whether you have Parental Responsibility. However, I would recommend in the first instance that you invite your wife to attend Mediation so that these issues can be discussed and agreed in an amicable way, avoiding court if possible. You should also think about getting some independent legal advice from a Resolution lawyer. If we can assist please get in touch.

  24. Do i need to pay maintenance to a step child after divorce, even though their biological father still pays maintenance towards the child and has done since birth.

    1. Dear James. The Child Maintenance Service does not have jurisdiction to deal with maintenance for step children. There is no automatic liability for you to pay. This would have to be dealt with through the court following an application by your spouse (or former spouse) for maintenance for step-children. The first port of call for maintenance would be to the children’s biological father. However the court will consider your relationship with the children and whether you have assumed supporting them financially for a number of years. I reiterate though that this can only be considered through court proceedings which would need to be instigated by the children’s mother and assuming that you are or were married.

  25. My husband passed away few years back we had a daughter she is now 4 . I am with a new partner now we also had achild . Does he have no parental rights over my daughter who i had with my late husband ?

    1. From the information you have provided it doesn’t sound like your new partner has parental responsibility for the daughter you had with your late husband. If you are married to your new partner you could grant him parental responsibility by way of a step parent parental responsibility agreement. You and your partner should each take legal advice before entering into such an agreement.

  26. Some advice please for a friend.
    He has a daughter who he gained residents order through the courts 5 years ago he has since married his new wife did not sign any legal papers regarding his child so only became step my by name.
    They have since divorced my friend and his daughter have moved on his ex wife is now taking him to court for full custody.
    Please anyone know where he stands on this.
    Hope you can help.
    Thankyou

    1. Thank you for your comment. I would strongly advise that your friend seek advice from a family lawyer who can explore the individual circumstances of his case with him. Unfortunately, each case is so fact specific that it is not possible to provide an accurate answer to the queries you have raised without further information. The Resolution website will provide you with names in his local area.

  27. Hey,
    I got with my ex when she was 12 week pregnant i was there for the child for the next three years, we have since split up, i know im not a step father by law as we never got married but i still see the child on a weekly basis but now she has started using her as a weapon again me and saying she can do what she wants because i have no rights, is there anything i can do to get rights or suppost behind me, all i want to do is be there for the child and shes making it very difficult i consider the child as my own and she even calls me dad the biological farther has never seen or been involved in the childs life

    Thanks in advance

    1. You should in the first instance see if you can work out an arrangement that is in the child’s best interests through mediation and/or by working together with a family consultant. If you and your ex are unable to reach an agreement with the assistance of a mediator and/or family consultant then you may be able to make an application to court for a child arrangement order. You might not necessarily be automatically entitled to make such an application, you may have to first apply to court for permission to be granted to be able to make the application. A lot more information would be needed in order to advise you of the best way forward, and we are unable to provide specific advice within this blog post. You should seek legal advice. You can find the details of a specialist lawyer local to you on the Resolution website.

  28. I have a brother who I recently found out was a half sibling to me. We have the same mother but different fathers. His father divorced with my mother early on and now he has a new wife and three children. What are the children’s relationship to me and what is my relationship with the new wife?

    1. From the information you have provided if you are referring to your half brother’s wife and children it seems like the children are your nieces/nephews and your half brother’s new wife is your sister in law. If you are however referring to your half brother’s father’s wife and children then from the information you have given it seems as if you do not have any legal relationship with them.

  29. Let’s say my wife is fighting her ex for custody of her daughter. We are at this point not legally married. In court she was not represented at the first court date. The ex accused me with false and unwarranted allegations of being “a convicted child rapist” and also labeled me as a drug user. The court has disproved this and still my wife has been ordered that she is to have “parenting time” 4 days a week at her grandmothers house which is about an hour from our home, with no “other 3rd party to be present” now since the order was passed we have been married legally and my question is am I still considered a “3rd party” or not…? Because of the state of NY recognizing our marriage I would think not… But I need to be sure. How do I find out for sure?

    1. Dear Joe, thank you for posting. Unfortunately we are unable to advise as I see you are resident in the US. We can only assist in respect of the law in England and Wales.

  30. I have been married to my husband for a year. He has 3 children, 2 are biologically his and 1 isn’t although he has joint parental responsibility for him. Their mother has had no contact with them for 2 years (didn’t pick them up from school one day and he has been unable to contact her since) they have all been living with me for 18 months. 3 weeks before we married my husband and the child that is not biologically his but that he has joint parental custody for were involved in a serious car accident. They were taken to separate hospitals, I was asked to accompany the child so had to explain I wasn’t his mother, and had no parental rights and I didn’t know where his mother was. Luckily my husbands parents were visiting and although they didn’t have parental responsibility they were allowed to accompany him ( he had no injuries, just precautionary) I then went with my husband who was injured. It has made us realise that we need to do something legally in case of emergencies (as far as I am aware I can’t even take them to the doctors)
    In short, we are married, the children live with us, they have not heard from their mother for 2 years, we don’t even know where she is. What do we need to do, and will they have to trace the mother first?

    1. It does sound like it would be in the children’s best interests based on the information you have provided to ensure that you and your husband have joint parental responsibility for them. There are different steps that can be taken to obtain this, more detail would be needed about your situation to work out the best way forwards. If you would like to arrange a consultation with one of our lawyers for advice please contact us on 01273 646900.

  31. I divorced my husband 4yrs ago and have now lived with my partner for 2yrs – unmarried. My ex husband and I have a 9yr old daughter together, who lives with me and my partner and stays with her father 2-3 nights per week. Although I’m aware my partner isn’t Step Dad to my daughter so has no legal rights, is it OK for my ex husband to contact me constantly telling me my partner should not pick my daughter up from school when I’m in work, should not tell her off in our own home and he should not help pay towards her birthday party or buy her things? If he doesn’t have the right, how can I make it stop and if he does have the right as my daughter’s biological father then does this only cease when I marry my partner and he gains some legal rights as step dad?

    1. Hi Gemma. As parents to your daughter you and your ex husband need to work together to ensure her best interests can be met. If you and your ex husband cannot reach an agreement in relation to your partner’s involvement in your daughter’s upbringing then you should in the first instance consider seeking professional help from a family consultant and/or mediator to try and assist you in working out a way forwards. You can find details of such professionals online at http://www.resolution.org.uk/findamember/ or by calling Resolution on 01689 820272. If you can’t reach an agreement with the assistance of a family consultant and/or mediator you should seek advice from a lawyer that specialises in family law (again details can be found online at http://www.resolution.org.uk/findamember/ or by calling Resolution on 01689 820272) for advice on other options available such as negotiation via lawyers, arbitration, court proceedings. If you marry your partner he does not automatically gain parental responsibility for your daughter, your ex husband would need to either provide his consent for parental responsibility to be granted by way of a formal step parent responsibility agreement http://formfinder.hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/c(pra2)-eng.pdf or your partner would need to make an application to court to determine matters https://www.gov.uk/parental-rights-responsibilities/apply-for-parental-responsibility, also see our blog https://www.familylawpartners.co.uk/step-parents-and-parental-responsibility/.

  32. My partners ex who they have one 7yr old daughter too is doing everything in her power to stop me from having any contact with their daughter. Me and my partner (her ex) have twin girls together and are due to be married soon and are living together. My partner has taken her to court for access of his daughter which she stopped when we got together.he has been fighting in court for over a year now for more regular access and for his daughter to be able to stay over. But the mother is completly refusing this as she doesnt want her daughter to have anything to do with me. Cafcass have made two reports stating there is no reason and she can stay over and meet me but shes fighting it. Its now gone to social services to make a report as shes now claiming im too “mental” to meet her daughter. This is totally untrue but social services are doing checks to see if im safe (which i am ) i have two other children from a previous marriage. My question is …… after social services have made their report obviously stating im fine and theres no reason why the child can’t come and meet me and stay over.when it goes to court, can the judge make a ruling that she can see me even if the mum is kicking of and refusing.? She doesnt even want her daughter to meet my 2 other chikdren who ate 12yrs and 9yrs as apparently they are too mental too. My partner as at his wits end with her constantly attacking him on pick up and drop offs that he now has a restraining order on her for him and me after she beat him in the school playground when he was picking her up on his contact day. Now his mother has to do pick up and drop offs and she is now taking the abuse. Where do we stand? Something has to give. The poor child has been witness too her mothers aggression too often

    1. Dear Jackie. We are not able to comment on specific cases in this forum, although I can explain the courts power in generic terms. It sounds like you and your partner are in a difficult situation and if he has not already done so I would suggest that your partner seeks specialist legal advice from a Resolution lawyer. You ask whether the court can make an order for the children to stay at your home with your partner and meet you and your children. The answer is yes they can, if after considering the evidence the court feel it is in the best interests of the children to do so. I hope this assists.

  33. Hi just want to know if my dad married to mom and he has a child out side with anothér woman is that my brother or step brother just want to sure.

    1. From the information provided it seems as though the child would be regarded as your half brother, as you and the child only have one parent in common.

  34. hi
    i have been married to my wife for 5 years now together for 9 and she has two biological who lives with us,one 19 one 15, recently my wife passed away and me and the boys are supporting each other and they still live with me. there biological father is around but prefers they stay with me. As there stepdad what legal rights do i have, if none and need to obtain parental responsibility how do i go about this?

    1. Thank you for your comment. Without parental responsibility you cannot make legal decisions for the children. If the children’s biological father is supportive you could ask him to agree to a Step-parent Parental Responsibility Agreement. However, there are other options available and you may wish to formalise the arrangement that the children live with you. I suggest that you seek specialist legal advice to help you find the arrangement that best suits you and your family. Please do contact me if I can assist you.

  35. Hi. I have parental responsibility for my stepson. His mother (my wife) died last year and for the last 10 months my stepson has lived with me. His father sees him every second weekend. My stepson has special needs and is a handful. I have tried to get his father to take him for another 3 hours to allow me more freedom on my weekends without him but his father will not do this and says that I am responsible and should get on with it. His last letter implied that he has taken legal advice, which I will now need to seek.
    Can my stepson’s father (who has parental responsibility since birth) force me to continue to be primary carer and limit his own contact. I don’t think I will be able to meet my stepson’s needs when he goes to secondary school in 2 years and would prefer him to move to live with his father (and new wife) at this point and for me to maintain contact but have a chance to move on and work full time again etc.
    Might a court insist that my stepson continue to live with me? If things get very contentious can I dissolve my parental responsibility? This isn’t what I want to do but if his father has a legal power over me he will use it to ensure that I carry all of the load whilst he moves on with his new life. He pays me very little child support (less than I spend on childcare) and I’m unable to work full time.
    Any experience or advice would be appreciated as my current position is not working.

    1. Thank you for your enquiry, it sounds like you are trying to do your best in a very difficult situation. No one, whether the court or your step-son’s father, can insist that your step-son lives with you if you don’t agree to this. However, you also cannot insist that he spends more time with or lives with his father. I suggest that you meet with a specialist family solicitor to get advice on your particular situation.

  36. I divorced my ex-husband 6 years ago and our 8 year-old child lives with me. The biological father haven’t been in contact for over 5 years, does not take part in child’s life and does not pay any maintenance.

    Parental Responsibility for step parent: I am now married and my new husband wishes to apply for Parental Responsibility as a first step to adoption. Me, my husband and my child from previous marriage live as a family, at the same address and share daily parental duties. The child calls his step parent “Dad” and doesn’t know his biological father.

    Surname change: my child has his biological father’s surname. I am changing my surname to my new husband’s surname and wish for my child to have the same surname. No contact with biological father to ask his permission or to go through mediation.

    Please advise which forms should we submit to the Family Court for which orders – for the purpose of changing child’s surname and for step parent to get parental responsibility and enable to take child abroad without a permission from the disappeared biological father:
    a) Form C100: Child arrangements order (child lives with mother and step father) and Specific issue order (surname change) – are both mother and step father “the applicants” on the form, or just the mother?
    or
    b) Form C1: Parental responsibility and surname change – who applies – both mother and step father or just the step father?
    or
    c) Both forms C100 and C1. If this is the case – who should be the applicants for which form (are mother and step father the applicants on C100 and step father is the applicant on C1?)? And which orders to apply for?

    Also, in C100 there are questions about child’s school – can the details and addresses be omitted (or written separately on C8) as we do not wish the biological father to appear unannounced at the school and cause disturbance to the child who doesn’t know him?

    I would be very grateful for a detailed advice on the best application process.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately we cannot give specific advice and your situation may not be as straight forward as it might first appear. Parental responsibility, step parenting and adoption are complex issues and I would recommend that you seek advice from a Resolution lawyer before embarking on any applications. Alternatively your local family court may be able to assist or you may find the information you need from the government web site. If we can assist on a more formal basis please do get in touch.

  37. Hi, I have just recently married a man who has a 7 year old daughter. I moved with them 2 years ago. I have a good relationship with the girl and she has been asked to help cleaning the house, do groceries with us, clean her room and put her toys away. The mother is fulling her head with strange things. She has been told in front of my husband that I have no say in anything in the house towards her and that she should not listen to me, threatening my husband in front of the girl to solve this matter in court. I wonder if there is a big problem with this situation, since all I do is to read a book with her, ask her to take a shower, make her bed, not eat candy at certain times, etc. This all with my husband´s approval.

    1. Dear Caroline. Thank you for your comment. You are describing common difficulties with blended families where there aren’t necessarily any legal issues to be resolved. I would recommend that you and your husband, and possibly your step-daughter’s mother if she is willing, seek some support from a Resolution trained family consultant or therapist who may be able to assist in improving communications between you all as well as discussing your different parenting styles. Part of the work might be to look at agreeing a parenting plan. You can find more information about these here. I hope this helps.

  38. My mum married my step dad last year and I have become close to him.
    I know under current UK law he can not adopt me as I’m an adult but is there anything in UK law that would allow for a more legal connection between he and I as I view him as my dad because of all hes done for me

    1. Dear Branden. Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately there isn’t anything “more legal” that can connect you and your step father. As you will have read a ‘step parent’ is not a legal concept as such, it is just a name/label. What is important is the context of your relationship which sounds as though it is very close.

  39. Do my step father adult children have rights to the house due to his passing years ago?
    Is there a structure of limitations for any claim for step- siblings?

    My mother and step farther bought a house together and they lived in it for 14 years before my step father passed away in 2004, my mother lived in the house for another 13 years before passing.
    Maybe they do have a claim or maybe they don’t. I would not think it would be a 50 / 50 split if they did. Reasons, they weren’t around when their dad was here, or after his passing, and they were not around when we put the roof on, repaired the fence, had to by new stove, repaint the walls and replace the carpet, help with the taxes, you get the ideal. Don’t seem fair to me they get ½ of everything when they did nothing or paid nothing.

    1. We do not have enough information to comment apart from generally to say that your deceased step-father may have left provision in his Will for his children. But such provision (if it included an interest in this property) may have been delayed under the terms of the Will until your mother had passed on. You should seek specific advice if you think there should be some adjustment in what you say is otherwise a 50/50 split.

      There is a limitation point for issuing legal proceedings under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 which is 6 months from the grant of probate (not from the date of death). Such claims are generally brought if a claimant believes that the financial provision made for them under a Will or under the automatic operation of the intestacy rules (where there is no valid Will) is insufficient. Adult children can bring claims but generally find it much harder to succeed. You should seek specific legal advice on the circumstances of your situation.

  40. My mother married my stepdad when I was very little. My mother then passed away when I got older. My stepdad is now about to get remarried to a new wife, what relation would she now be to me?

    1. Dear Chloe, thank you for your comment. From the information you have provided there is not a specific label, that I am aware of, which can be attached to the relationship between you and your step-father’s new wife. A step parent only becomes a step parent when they marry a biological parent.

  41. My father has just passed and left a will saying his house was to be put into mine and my stepbrother’s names, sold and the money split equally. My father divorced my stepbrother’s mother decades ago so I no longer have a stepbrother nor does my father have a stepson.
    But, the will (only written 3 months ago) states me and “stepson” leading me to believe that my father had Alzheimer’s and forgot he no longer had a stepson.
    But regardless of that, does this make the will invalid.?

    1. Your query raises a number of points. We can only make general observations when responding to blog comments. If the Will executed by your father 3 months ago specifically referred to your stepbrother by name then there is no uncertainty as to who your father intended to benefit under his Will. A house is normally the major asset passing under a Will and would in most circumstances be passed to named beneficiaries. There are exceptions of course where a property may be held on trust but the specific beneficiaries or class of beneficiaries should be clear. The wishes of your father in his Will as you phrase them are slightly unusual. Was this Will drafted with legal advice or was it a pro-forma Will purchased from a high street store or online? We strongly recommend that you obtain legal advice upon the validity of the Will including whether your father had the necessary mental capacity to execute and approve its contents at the time. If the Will is not valid then the intestacy rules would apply. In England & Wales, those rules dictate that biological and adopted children of the deceased would inherit but not stepchildren. You should get legal advice.

  42. I was with ex wife for 7 years then married for 2 now divorced for 5 my ex has 2 children now both over 18 and we have 1 child together, legally am I still considered the step parent of the other children? We live in Scotland

    1. Dear Alexander. Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately we cannot advise on the law in Scotland as it is different to England and Wales. I would suggest you seek advice from a lawyer who is based nearer to you. The Scottish Law Society should be able to direct you to somebody more suitable https://www.lawscot.org.uk/find-a-solicitor/

  43. My dad and mom divorced. My dad remarried, and 17 years later has died. She was my stepmother when they were married. Because he is gone now, does that status go away with the marriage (his death), or do I still introduce her as my stepmother? This is NOT about legal issues or inheritance, I just want to know if she is no longer called by that title because he and the marriage are no longer around.

    1. Brooke, it is entirely up to individuals and families to make decisions about titles after a relationship has ended, there’s no right or wrong. In our experience this can vary enormously between different families so it really is a case of whatever the individuals feel comfortable with. I hope this helps.

  44. My Mother married again back in 1994 and last year her husband died. He had older two sons who I never see or have any contact with (except at the funeral).
    My employer has asked me to complete a vetting form, I have enquired about her husband and he does not have to be included on the form. Do you think that they will require the sons details, they are nothing to do with me now and it also seems that my Mother has cut ties with them also?

    1. Dear Paul, unfortunately this is not something that we can assist with here. Many thanks.

  45. Hello,
    My now wife and I have been together for nearly six years. I have a son prior to our relationship who is approaching 8. He has developed a strong bond and he considers her Mommy also. His mother, ha made things very difficult over the years and she has truly succeeded in court. We have a 50/50 agreement through the courts. My question is, does my wife have any rights to our agreements or with any parenting decisions. If we decide to go back to mediation, now that we are married, is she allowed to attend. What rights does she have? Thank You

    1. Dear Jamal, thank you for your comment. As you will have read step-parents do not have any automatic legal ‘rights’ and any involvement of your wife in mediation would have to be by agreement with your son’s mother. Your wife does not have ‘parental responsibility’ unless it has been acquired under specific circumstances which are set out in my other blog post.

  46. My stepfather past away last year. My mom passed 7 years ago. The deed to their house was in both of their names, but with Tenancy in Common. My stepdad never legally adopted me I also have a brother from my mom. For some reason, my stepdad did not leave a will, although I was his POA, and life insurance beneficiary. I think he thought that the POA would suffice to transfer everything to me, although I know that that is not the case. My stepfather has no children of his own. Although I realize this is not legally binding, he always considered me as his daughter and I have numerous witnesses to attest that he wanted to leave his estate to me.
    My stepfather was a resident of CO. He has nieces and a nephew, and I have been told that they are his legal heirs, that I basically am not entitled to anything
    My step cousins want nothing to do with my step dad’s estate or inheritance. They do not want to be his personal representative. How difficult would it be for me to be established as his representative and beneficiary? Also, my stepdad did not want my brother to have a dime of his estate. Would I split my mother’s portion of the house with my brother, or did her part of the property pass to my stepdad?
    Thank you for your time.

    1. Dear Tracey, thank you for your comment. We can only assist with the legal position in England and Wales. It appears you live in the USA and so you will need to contact a lawyer in your area.

  47. Is the step-parent relationship only applicable to the legally married spouse of a parent after divorce or does it also relate to a parent’s earlier marriage partner? I.E. if a man married and later divorced a woman, then remarried and had children with his second wife, would the first wife be considered a stepmother or simply his first wife? And if wife no. 1 had had children, would they be step-siblings or simply half-siblings?

    1. Dear Charlotte. Thank you for your comment. In that situation the first wife would not be a step-parent to any children born to the second wife. “step-siblings” or “half-siblings” aren’t a legal concept as such, it is just a name/label. It is entirely up to individuals and families to make decisions about titles after a relationship has ended, there’s no right or wrong. In our experience this can vary enormously between different families so it really is a case of whatever the individuals feel comfortable with.

  48. I have a daughter Who I have parental responsibility for. Her mother recently passed away and her step dad through marriage is withholding any contact with my daughter. I’ve always been in her life and seen her on a regular basis. How do I go about custody and can I do anything to the step parent for withholding my child from any contact with me?

    1. Dear Terri, thank you for your enquiry. My first question is does your daughter’s step-father have parental responsibility for her? Decisions such as where your daughter should live and who she should spend time with should be made by those with parental responsibility for her. If more than one person holds parental responsibility for her then I recommend you consider discussing the issue in mediation, it will be far better for your daughter if the adults in her life can agree arrangements for her rather than entering into a battle in court. If an agreement can’t be reached between those who hold parental responsibility for your daughter then you should make an application at court for a child arrangements order, which can be an order that your daughter lives with you or spends time with you. You should consider seeking legal advice from a Resolution specialist family lawyer.

  49. My Fiancee and I have been together 4 years and are getting married in Oct 2018. He has 4 children from a previous relationship. The biological mother is also dating a man who now lives with her. According to the legal documents appointed by the courts, the biological parent (or related family member) has first right to children if the children are going to be left in the care of someone else for more than 4 hrs on the opposing parents time. As of right now a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” does not qualify as a “related family member”. My question is; upon my marriage to my fiancee, will I as the children’s step mother, qualify as a related family member now?

    1. Dear Kara, thank you for your question. We are unable to provide advice on specific circumstances within this forum. We would need to review the Court Order that you refer to before we could advise further. If you would like us to assist on a formal basis please get in touch and we would be very happy to assist.

  50. I have a 9 yrs daughter my wife passed away I got married. She does everything for us we don’t have step parent parental responsibility agreement she going to adopt my daughter. I don’t know what rights my new wife’s has and what do I need to do so if anything would happen to me they could not come and take my daughter from her new stepmother

    1. The adoption process can take time, it may be that your wife can be granted step parent parental responsibility by agreement to provide your wife with parental responsibility in the meantime, see here. You should ensure that your Will is up to date and consider appointing your wife as a guardian for your child, you should seek advice from a lawyer that specialises in this area of law. You can find information about step parent adoption online on the gov.uk website.

  51. Would a mother’s son who had his surname changed to her partner’s surname by dee poll be entitled to any of his life insurance as he has the same surname and has brought him up since he was 1

    1. Thanks for your comment Amanda. You will need to establish who your partner nominated as beneficiary to his life insurance policy. You should be aware that changing your son’s name from deed poll does not create a legal relationship between your son and your partner, so it is unlikely that the life insurance company would consider him to be your partner’s child. I hope this assists.

  52. My partner and I have 2 children. She is the birth mother and I am not on the birth certificate, as they were born before April 2009. She was diagnosed with a life limiting illness and we entered into a civil partnership and I applied for parental responsibility about 6 years ago. I am the only other person with parental responsibility for them. Her condition is now terminal, will they automatically stay with me or do we need to put anything further in place ? Thank you.

    1. Dear Lindsay, thank you for your comment and I am sorry to hear about your partner’s illness. If your partner dies and you are the only person with parental responsibility for the children, the assumption is that they will live with you. It would be a good idea for your partner to appoint you as Guardian in her will if she hasn’t already done so, to make sure that there is clear evidence of her intentions just in case anyone else makes an application for at court for the children to live with them. I hope this assists you.

  53. My ex and I weren’t married and I have primary custody of my son (approx 300 days a year). He visits her in summer and certain holidays.
    She has a live-in boyfriend. I know he is not a step-parent but, if they were to be married, since my son lives w me in another state and he does not help provide for him, would he legally be considered a step-parent if they were married and she doesn’t have primary custody?

    1. Dear Nick, thank you for your comment. You refer to your son’s mother living in a different state to you and your son. This leads me to believe that you live outside the jurisdiction of England and Wales and I suggest that you seek legal advice in your jurisdiction. If you do live in England and Wales then please let me know and I will be happy to assist you.

  54. My daughter is marrying her partner who has 2 children from a previous relationship. I have met them but I am now being asked to look after them overnight when they will not be present in the building. I am worried I legally have no rights over the them so if something was to happen where do I stand or what should I do. I feel I should refuse this request. Can you advise or help.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Had the children been your daughter’s biological children you would not have had any ‘legal rights’ over them in any event. I would advise you to discuss your concerns with your daughter and her partner and agree what you will do should ‘anything happen’.

  55. my step dad passed away about 11 years ago to my biological mother. He has a son which is my step brother and I have a step grandmother. Do I still have a step brother and a step grandmother after my step dad died?

    1. Dear Pete, thank you for your question. The labels/names ‘step brother’ and ‘step grandmother’ do still apply although, as you will have read, such labels do not have any legal status. What is important is the context of the relationship. I hope this helps.

  56. My mom has been married with my step father 15 years, but hasn’t adopted me.My younger siblings are his biologically . My mom is currently going thru the divorcing process, he isn’t happy about it. He harrsses my mom and minpulates me and my older sister. Recently he told me about how he was monitoring my cell phone , he had taken screenshots of my texting conversations. Is it legal for him to monitor my phone without the permission of my mother

    1. Thank you for your comment. Whether or not this it is legal is more a question for a criminal solicitor as opposed to a family solicitor. Your age (whether or not you are over 18) is also relevant to how this issue should be dealt with. It may also be significant for the divorce proceedings, so it may be a good idea for your mother to mention this to her divorce solicitor.

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