Because of what we do, we know that great parents come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, those parents are biologically related to their children; sometimes they’re not. We also know there are some excellent step-parents out there who do just as much as their spouses do when it comes to creating a great home for the children.
We know that even the best of intentions sometimes doesn’t work out the way you planned, and some couples may end up divorcing. But if you are a step-parent to a minor child in Tennessee, you do have rights when it comes to visitation. Under TN Code § 36-6-303 (2016):
“In a suit for annulment, divorce or separate maintenance where one (1) party is a stepparent to a minor child born to the other party, such stepparent may be granted reasonable visitation rights to such child during the child’s minority by the court of competent jurisdiction upon a finding that such visitation rights would be in the best interests of the minor child and that such stepparent is actually providing or contributing towards the support of such child.”
So yes, you can still see your step-child even if you divorce your spouse, so long as the court decrees that your requests are reasonable, you’re continuing to support the child, and visitation is in the best interest of the children. The courts are bound by financial support, though; if you cannot help support the children, you likely will not be granted any visitation with the kids, unless your former spouse agrees to it.
Why if my former spouse is abusive?
If your former spouse is abusive to the children, you may be able to petition for full custody of your step-children, provided that their other parent is no longer in the picture. You should know, though, that you may face an uphill battle if the children’s grandparents also petition for custody.
Proactive options for step-parents
One way to avoid all of these problems is to adopt your step-children as your own. This might not be feasible if the other parent is still actively involved in his or her children’s lives, and/or will not terminate his or her parental rights. But if you see and love your step-children as your own, you might want to consider adopting them. Not only will it automatically grant you rights to your children in the event of a divorce, but it will probably help strengthen the bond of love that already exists between you.
At Shepherd and Associates, P.C., we understand that divorce can be tricky, and that all parents really want is to protect their children. Our Maryville family law attorneys want to help you do just that. To learn more about our services, or to schedule a consultation at our office, please call 865-225-9655 or fill out our contact form.