Step parents get a bad rap in this country, and that’s unfair. They’re a vital part of an ever-changing family unit – and there are a lot of them. Don’t believe me? Nearly half of the married couples in Tennessee will eventually get divorced, if the State Department’s statistics are right. Even if only half of those couples remarry into a family with kids, we’re looking at about 12,000 people becoming step parents each year.
So what happens if this marriage doesn’t work? Chances are you and your step children have bonded; perhaps you and your spouse even had another baby. In cases like these, it seems especially cruel to be denied access to one child while you’re visiting with the other.
Will you ever get to see your step children again?
You bet you will.
Like grandparents, step parents have grounds to file for visitation under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-303. The courts look at the same factors they do for any other person who wants visitation rights. The most important factor is whether or not allowing you access to your step children is in their best interest. If you and your step child have a strong, loving bond, then the courts will usually see fit to grant you visitation.
There is one other rule, however, which may not be as simple as it seems. In Tennessee, any step parent who applies for visitation must provide proof that he/she is financially supportive of that child. The idea behind it is, one assumes, that anyone who cares enough about the child to apply for visitation should have no problem contributing financially to the child’s care and upbringing. Since most step parents aren’t legally required to pay child support – with exceptions, of course – this particular part of the law can be hard to overcome.
If you’re missing your step children, speak with a family law attorney – preferably one who practices in your area. Tennessee family court judges have a lot of room for interpretation of the law, so it helps to work with a lawyer who’s familiar with the system where you live.