Senior Partner Marilyn Stowe was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour earlier today to discuss the rights of step-parents following relationship breakdowns.
She said such events represent a sad situation but warned that the legal side of it can be quite complex.
A couple being married does not automatically give the step-parent parental responsibility in the eyes of the law. They must have the consent of both legal parents before they are entitled to make decisions for the child or children, such as in the case of an emergency and they need hospital attention.
Meanwhile, unmarried couples must get a ‘living with arrangement’ or what used to be called a ‘residence order’ which will last for as long as the child is living with their parent’s partner.
These types of cases, where there is a breakdown of a relationship, can go to court but first they must go through meditation.
Marilyn explained that step-parents who have lived with a child for three or more years do not need to get permission from the court to make an application.
The court would base their decision on how the children were living and how they would continue to live after the separation.
However, Mrs Stowe said that there has been a huge alteration in the courts recently and these cases are likely to go in front of a magistrate rather than a county court.
If the case deals with the issue of contact and is going through the Magistrates Court, Marilyn suggested that people may as well go ahead on their own and pay the upfront cost of £215.
She explained that these sorts of cases are becoming more common but said people should not be afraid of going to court.
Marilyn said there are a number of very good websites available to help people going through such situations such as Happy Steps, which is a website dedicated to step-parents.
To listen to the full interview, click here (Marilyn’s segment begins at 21:00)