The blended family is far from an irregular sight in modern society. According to the U.S. Census Bureau as related by The Stepfamily Foundation, over half of the nation’s families involve remarriage or after-first-marriage couples.
After living together for potentially long periods and through many milestones and difficult and happy times alike, many stepfamilies become as close as blood-related ones. It can therefore be difficult for stepparents to leave stepchildren behind when a relationship ends. However, Tennessee grants them certain rights that allow them to maintain a relationship with their stepchildren even after the divorce.
In the case that the biological parent becomes unable to care for the children, a former stepparent has kinship status for fostering. Courts may prefer former stepparents over more distant relations who the children are not as close with. They also grant stepparents preferential status when it comes to adoption, including after divorce, especially when a biological parent waives his or her rights.
Many people consider visitation something only biological parents and grandparents get. However, the law focuses on what is in the best interests of the children. If this includes continuing a relationship with a stepparent, who is potentially instrumental to the children’s growth and development, then the court may award a stepparent visitation. However, the stepparent must be a financial provider in some form for the children to receive visitation.
Stepparents often play a major role in children’s formative years, taking on the same roles and responsibilities as biological parents in many cases. In recognition of this, they retain certain rights by law with regard to their former stepchildren even after the breakdown of a relationship.