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Understanding the role of a step-parent in a child's life

The divorce of one's parents can be emotionally challenging for a Washington child. When one or both of their parents later decide to remarry, however, the child may be confronted with the difficult situation of understanding how to relate to their new step-mom or step-dad. Step-parents may also have concerns about what rights, if any, they have with regard to raising their step-children.

Generally, step-parents do not have any legal rights with regard to their step-children. This is because the children presumably still have two parents who are responsible for providing them with the financial, emotional and physical care that the children require. Birth parents do not give up their rights to be parents when they divorce; a parent who does not have physical custody of their child does not cease to be a parent to their child.

Biological parents' rights can be lost, however, through termination or the voluntary revocation of their parental responsibilities. When a biological parent loses their rights to their kids, the children's step-parent may be able to take a more active role in their lives if that step-parent chooses to adopt the children and make them their own. Step-parent adoption is not uncommon and in many cases may be an easier process for parents to complete than adoption through an agency or international organization.

Step-parents can be supportive role models for their step-kids but when it comes to actual rights and responsibilities, they do not have many. Integrating a family after a remarriage can be complicated, but by working together parents and step-parents can make hospitable, caring homes for the children they love and support.

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