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Stepfamilies And The Law

Although there has been very little study of this issue, it is possible that interaction patterns in step-families are affected by the legal circumstances facing them. Unfortunately, stepparents and stepchildren have an ambiguous legal relationship to one another, because existing laws do not dictate what a stepparent's responsibilities and rights are with respect to his or her stepchild. The only way that a stepparent can be guaranteed to have the rights and responsibilities associated with being a parent is to adopt the stepchild, but this usually requires that the child's biological parent relinquish parental rights. Thus, U.S. law assumes that a child should only have concurrent legal relationships with two adults. By contrast, in the United Kingdom, according to the Children Act 1989, a stepparent (and selected other third parties) has the option of applying for a "residence order," which gives him or her almost the same rights as a parent. Thus, within this system, a stepchild can have legal relationships with three adults (or even more) at one time. Very little research has examined the impact of this British law, but it seems plausible that stepchildren and stepparents, particularly those who have a close relationship, might have an advantage with a secure and clear legal tie to one another.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Theory & Types of FamiliesStepfamilies - Parenting Roles, The Stepparent Role, Clarity Of The Stepparent Role, Adjustment In Stepfamilies, Stepparent Role And Adjustment