You don’t need to have a biological connection to a child for your bond with them to be deep and meaningful. Stepparents can play an important role in the lives of children who have lost a parent and those whose parents are no longer in a relationship.
You can be a source of support, encouragement and stability for your stepchildren. You may fulfill all of the standard duties of a parent. Much like a biological parent, you may make decisions about your marriage or employment based on what would be best for the kids.
For example, you may have decided against a divorce simply because you don’t want to put the relationship with your stepchildren at risk. The good news for people in such an uncomfortable position in Arizona is that legal parenthood alone doesn’t decide custody and visitation in an Arizona divorce.
Stepparents have rights under third-party laws in Arizona
Arizona specifically allocates the right to seek placement of a child or visitation with a child when you don’t have a biological or formal adoptive relationship. Anyone who has fulfilled the role of a parent can potentially ask for the court to view them as a parent if it would be in the best interests of the children.
If you have a great relationship with the kids and you intend to continue providing them with social and financial support even after the divorce, the judge may determine that visitation would be beneficial for the children. In circumstances where your ex will be incarcerated or will otherwise not be able to fulfill their parental duties, a judge might even decide to place your stepchildren with you.
Stepparent involvement doesn’t have to be contentious
Invoking the third-party laws in a divorce can be an option if you have to litigate with your ex to protect your relationship with the kids. However, it could be possible for you to negotiate visitation arrangements with them as part of a collaborative divorce as well. You can set unique terms that will work well for your changing family if your ex is open to collaborating.
Regardless of which approach you have to take, protecting the relationship with your stepchildren can be an option for stepparents divorcing in Arizona.