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What child custody rights do step-parents have?

Divorce is not always easy, particularly when children are involved. One of the main components of divorce is child custody. However, sometimes child custody cases do not just involve biological parents, they may also involve step-parents. Do Massachusetts step-parents have legal standing regarding custody issues?

One man had gotten remarried to someone else who was heavily involved in the child’s life. The biological mother had previously spent six years in jail for an aggravated assault case on another child. A case went to court in which the stepmother was seeking custody of her stepson, but she lost the case. She believes that this ruling was not in the child’s best interest.

In regard to step-parent rights, the laws in Tennessee state that there are none. Step-parents do not typically have legal rights in custody hearings. The judge in this case did not ultimately believe that the child was in any danger regarding his biological mother. In addition, the child is 11 years old and, under the law, children under the age of 12 may not have a voice in such situations.

Massachusetts step-parents may or may not have child custody rights, depending on the area in which they reside. Most areas do not allow step-parents to have a legal standing over a child to whom they are not biologically related, even if they had a close relationship. Usually, the biological parent would need to be deceased or currently incarcerated. Step-parents who are not sure of their rights may want to research their local laws.

Source:, “Stepmother heartbroken after losing custody“, Heather Mathis, Aug. 22, 2014


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