Blended families are common, and the relationships that form within these families can last for life, even if the new family unit does not. Stepparents often develop very close bonds with the children of their spouses that they will maintain for the rest of their lives.
You may have been part of the family since the child was an infant. Even if you met them when they were already in school, your attachment and bond may be very powerful. You may have become a primary source of financial and emotional support for your stepchild. The thought of losing that connection might make you feel like you can never leave your spouse, even if they mistreat you or your relationship is obviously unhappy.
It is common for people to assume that stepparents have no rights unless they legally adopt their stepchildren. However, Georgia has enacted a law that could give you the option of asking for visitation or shared custody if you divorce.
Georgia has an equitable caregiver law
A few years ago, it was very difficult for stepparents and other people with close relationships with minor children to legally protect those relationships. However, after the state legislature passed the equitable caregiver act, individuals who have invested financially and emotionally to support children gained the right to protect those relationships.
Provided that you can show the courts that you filled a parental role in the child’s life and that your continued involvement would be in their best interests, the courts may determine that you are a caregiver whose relationship is comparable to that of a parent. At that point, you could seek shared custody or visitation. The courts will acknowledge that continuing your relationship would benefit the children and will act accordingly as they move forward with your divorce.
Learning your rights will empower you
Too many people remain in unhealthy and unhappy situations simply due to a lack of knowledge. The fear of repercussions can have a profound chilling effect on those who might be happier after divorcing.
Discussing your wishes and fears with a family law attorney could help you determine what custody options and parenting rights you have when considering divorce as a stepparent.