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The rights and responsibilities of step-parents

On Behalf of | Dec 27, 2019 | Divorce, Family Law

Blood isn’t the only thing that makes someone family. That’s especially the case here in the U.S., as 40% of all married couples with children are blended families. That means half of spouses in America are helping raise another person’s kids.

Under these circumstances, some step-parents may wonder what their rights and boundaries are when it comes to caring for their spouse’s children.

Step-parents hold many of the same responsibilities

Those married to a divorced parent may have to assist with some of the same child-raising duties. Depending on the custody situation, step-parents may likely be living under the same roof as their step-kids part of the time.

Responsibilities of the step-parent can often vary depending on the issue. For instance, the step-parents can legally make decisions regarding the child’s schooling and have the right to access the child’s educational records. The step-parent, however, does not have the legal right to make medical decisions on the child’s behalf. Moreover, there are instances where a step-parent may have to intervene in certain situations. For example, if a child needs to go to the emergency room and their biological parent isn’t available, the step-parent may have to take responsibility for the child’s well-being.

Dealing with discipline

Dealing with child discipline as a step-parent can be a bit of a grey area. That’s because some kids may display defiance towards the step-parent, thinking they don’t have to comply with their orders. However, if the children are under their biological parent and the step parent’s roof, the step-parent has the right to discipline as the biological parent. That means they can be in control of such things as:

  • Establishing consequences for breaking household rules.
  • Assigning household chores.
  • Deciding what kinds of media the kids can and can’t consume.
  • Establishing a set curfew.

Understanding duties is crucial

Those who’ve been married two or even three times have often been part of a blended family. While joining a new family can sometimes be a blessing in disguise, step-parents need to know their rights and boundaries.


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