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Legal Advice for Stepfamilies


Families come in all shapes and sizes and when two families come together it is natural for parents to want to formalise and protect their family unit.

The family law experts at Lanyon Bowdler can provide you with specialist legal advice to ensure that your blended family enjoys the same rights and safeguards as any other.

No matter what your situation or query regarding stepfamilies, for informed, professional advice contact our friendly team today for the clarity and understanding you need.

Can I obtain parental responsibility for my stepchildren?

As a stepparent, you don’t automatically have parental responsibility for your partner’s children. Many families are happy to maintain the status-quo and manage without changing the legal status within the family. However, there are many decisions a stepparent might wish to be involved in when it comes to the upbringing of their stepchild. These can be as significant as having a say in the medical treatment the child receives, or as simple as signing consent forms for school.

If you and your partner agree that you want to legally recognise this important family bond and allow you more autonomy in the upbringing of your stepchild then we can help you to seek parental responsibility.

Previously, stepparents were only granted parental responsibility by adopting their partner’s children but there are now other options:

Parental Responsibility Agreement

This is the most straightforward option for obtaining parental responsibility for your partner’s child or children. The agreement must have the consent of all those who already hold parental responsibility, including the non-resident parent, but if everyone is in agreement the process if fairly straight forward. There is no need to make an application to the court but the agreement will be signed at the court by all parties before being registered. The agreement will then remain in place until the child is 16.

Applying to the court for parental responsibility

If the child’s other parent does not consent to a Parental Responsibility Agreement, a stepparent can apply to the court to obtain parental responsibility. Anyone who already holds parental responsibility will be informed of the application and can object, but ultimately the court will make the decision based on the best interests of the child.

Child Arrangement Order

A Child Arrangement Order is often sought by a separating or divorcing couple who cannot agree on the living and access arrangements for their child. If, as a stepparent, you are named in such an order as someone with whom the child lives, then you will be granted parental responsibility for as long as the order remains in place.

If at any point you become your stepchild’s legal or special guardian, then you will be automatically granted parental responsibility. 

Adopting a stepchild

Although obtaining parental responsibility is a more straightforward route to formalising the relationship you have with your stepchild, some families choose to pursue adoption to make everything official.

Adopting your stepchild will permanently end the legal relationship they have with their other parent, so it is a decision that cannot be taken lightly. Your child will no longer be entitled to any inheritance or maintenance payments from this parent and you will have full, permanent legal responsibility for them, along with your partner or spouse, even if you were to separate or divorce in the future.

Anyone who already holds parental responsibility for the child must consent to the Adoption Order.

How to Apply for an Adoption Order

If you are over 21 and have lived with your partner and their child for a minimum of six months then you are able to apply for an Adoption Order. The adoption process can be lengthy as the local authority and the court must be satisfied that the decision is in the best interests of the child.

We can help with all the legalities and provide advice and support throughout every stage of the adoption process.

  • Inform your local authority in writing of your intention to adopt your partner’s child.
  • You will be appointed a social worker who will assess the suitability of the adoption and make their recommendations to the court to help them reach a decision.
  • After a minimum of three months (but no longer than two years), you are then able to apply to the court for an Adoption Order.
  • A series of hearings will then be held so that the court can establish the facts and determine the suitability of the adoption.
  • Both of the child’s legal parents must consent to the adoption and, in cases where everyone agrees, the court decision is usually quick and straight forward.
  • Once the adoption order is granted, your child’s birth certificate will be replaced with an adoption certificate naming you and your partner as the legal parents.

It is important to give thorough and careful consideration as to whether adoption is the right choice for your family. Our family lawyers are able to utilise their experience in this area to offer expert advice on the best way to proceed and to secure your family the full legal rights and protections.

What happens following the death of a parent?

If your partner dies there will be a number of questions relating to where your stepchild should live and the level of contact that they should have with the deceased parent’s family.

The answers will very much depend upon the ability of the child’s other parent to care for them and your legal status in relation to your stepchild or children.

The situation will seem confusing and overwhelming as you seek to make the best decision for your stepchild, but we are here to help you navigate this difficult path and to provide specialist advice on the legalities of your situation.

The family law team at Lanyon Bowdler possess the warmth, understanding and experience to help you in your bereavement, and we urge you to seek legal support as soon as possible to help alleviate your worry and concern about what the future holds for you and your stepchild.

Inheritance Laws for Stepfamilies

When it comes to leaving any part of your estate to your stepchild, it is essential that you make a Will specifically detailing what they should inherit.

The current inheritance laws do not extend to stepfamilies so if you die without a Will, any children that are not legally adopted by you will not be included.

Similarly if your Will simply states ‘your children’, unless legally adopted by you, your stepchildren will, again, not be included.

As a full-service law firm, we are able to draft and advise on your Will to ensure that all those who are important to you are provided for.

Why choose Lanyon Bowdler?

We regularly work with stepfamilies to find the best solution for their particular circumstances and we can help you too. We understand that no two families are the same, which is why we will provide you with a fully personalised service tailored to your family’s specific needs. 

We can help you through all stages of your query from initial advice, guidance on the legal process and help with any documentation or paperwork that needs to be submitted. We are thorough and meticulous in our case building and representation and are always clear and pragmatic in our approach.

At Lanyon Bowdler, you will find a team of professionals who genuinely care and who will work tirelessly on your behalf. We are renowned for our outstanding customer service and are recognised across the industry as the go-to law firm for all family and child law matters.

Lanyon Bowdler is recommended in The Legal 500, an independent, national guide to recommended law firms, and in the Chambers UK rankings.

How Much Will Legal Advice for Step Families Cost?

At Lanyon Bowdler, we believe that everyone should have access to an exceptional legal service, which is why we offer a range of payment options so that budget is no barrier.

You deserve the very best for your family so we offer fixed fees and  staged payment options as well as the traditional hourly charging rates so that you can tailor your payments to suit your own personal situation.

We are completely transparent and open about our pricing structure so for more detailed information please feel free to contact us today.

Get in Touch With The Family Law Solicitors at Lanyon Bowdler

With roots leading back to the 19th century, we have offices in Shrewsbury, Bromyard, Conwy, Hereford, Ludlow, Oswestry and Telford and are one of the most trusted and renowned law firms in Shropshire, Herefordshire and North Wales. 

By choosing Lanyon Bowdler, you can rest assured that you have the best legal expertise no matter what the situation. Our family law solicitors have vast experience in all areas of family law and we are committed to providing exceptional levels of client care. We always act with the utmost discretion and you will be treated with sensitivity and understanding, as we work closely with you to find the best outcome for everyone involved.

As one of the country’s leading full-service law firms, we can represent you wherever you live in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, so don’t hesitate to contact us. We can help and will provide you with thoughtful, considered, expert advice.

To speak to us in confidence call Lanyon Bowdler today for an informal chat or complete the online enquiry form and one of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.



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