Step-parenthood has become more and more common due to more marriages breaking down. This also means more new relationships will involve partners who already have children.
The problem, as the Scottish Government has recognised, is that there seems to be no wider agreement in society about the role step-parents should play after separation.
At the present time step-parents in Scotland have no legal rights as such in relation to their step-children. However, after separation, a step-parent can – just as a natural parent – apply to the court to obtain parental rights and responsibilities e.g. so as to maintain contact with their stepchildren.
As the law currently stands, any person can apply for orders under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 in relation to children. They do not have to be a parent. The court only has to be satisfied that the order being asked for would serve the best interests of the children concerned. Obviously it would be crucial to prove that there had previously been a close relationship and that this should be preserved by the court.
A stepparent who can show that they had a good relationship with their stepchildren should be able to show that that relationship should not come to an end just because of separation from the children’s mother. Many stepchildren in any event are as close to step parents as children are to the natural parents.
Unfortunately it is unlikely that step parents will be given automatic parental rights in the near future but that should not be a problem as even many fathers lack parental rights.
All that a step-parent has to do is persuade the court that the rights they are asking for would benefit their stepchildren. This is to satisfy the welfare test mentioned above.
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