As a stepparent, is visitation even an option when you divorce?

When you fall in love with someone who already has kids, those children become part of your life and your extended family. When you marry someone with children, you probably hope that your new, blended family will be a lifetime commitment.

Unfortunately, even those who get married with the best of intentions sometimes see their relationships fall apart. As a stepparent, the idea of divorce can be even more frightening for you than it might be for someone with a biological relationship to a child. Do you have to give up on your relationship with your stepchildren once you file for divorce, or can you ask for shared custody?

Colorado won’t give parental responsibilities to a stepparent

What people refer to as custody in most other states is called parental responsibility here in Colorado. Parental responsibilities and rights include the obligation to provide for a child’s basic needs and the right to spend time with a child and make decisions about their education, faith and health care.

Unfortunately, if you did not legally adopt your stepchildren, you likely have no grounds to request shared custody or an allocation of parental rights and responsibilities. On the plus side, that means that your ex can’t force you to pay child support either. Does that mean you have to give up on your relationship with your stepkids?

You could request visitation because it will benefit the kids

As a loving stepparent, you are important to the children just like they are important to you. Losing out on their relationship with you is not going to help them but could instead do harm. Since the courts focus on the best interests of the children, the importance of your bond with them can lead to visitation rights.

Under Colorado’s third-party visitation law, you might potentially be able to ask for visitation rights during the divorce. As long as your continued presence in the eyes of the children is in their best interest, a judge may agree to let you spend time with them even if your ex isn’t eager to accommodate you.

Arguing for stepparent visitation requires an understanding of the law and careful planning, so the sooner you start preparing for the divorce, the better your chances of success.