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What are a stepparent's responsibilities to their stepkids?

A person who marries another person who has children from a previous relationship becomes a stepparent to those kids. The stepparent-stepchild relationship can be a special one, but not all Washington residents who enter into these associations know what their rights and responsibilities are with regard to the children of their new partners. This post will generally discuss what role a stepparent may play in the life of their stepchild, but as with all legal matters readers should seek their own advice to have their legal questions answered.

First and foremost, a stepparent is not a parent to their partner's kids. It is presumed that the children have two parents - their parent who is now married to their stepparent and their other biological parent. The remarriage of one parent does not sever the parental rights of the other parent, and as such a marriage between a parent and a new partner does not make the new partner a parent to their children.

Second, since a stepparent is not a parent to their stepchild they have no parental rights and duties over that child. The child's parents are still bound to support and care for them. If however, a child only has one parent either through the death of the other or the legal termination of the other parent's rights, their stepparent may seek to adopt them as their own child.

Stepparent adoption creates a legal relationship between a stepparent and their stepchild and that legal relationship allows the stepparent to assume full parental responsibilities. Those who are interested in stepparent adoption may want to consult with their divorce and family law attorneys to learn more about what is required for this process to be undertaken.

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