The role of a step-parent is often described as the hardest of parenting roles. The step-parent is frequently required to exercise some form of authority and assist in the bringing up of their partner’s children but, at the same time, they have no real legal status. Sometimes they are considered as a threat by surviving natural parents.
Families often consider ways in which to grant legal status to a step-parent. This may be helpful in circumstances where the children’s parents are separated and the resident parent wants to give his/her new partner a legal connection to the children. Or, perhaps, one of the children’s natural parents has died and the surviving natural parent wishes to ensure, should anything happen to them, that the children remain with the step-parent.
Adoption is often the solution which families initially think of. However, this can be complicated and is a rather drastic step. It severs all legal ties with at least one side of the children’s natural family. There are other alternatives, such as joint residence orders or parental responsibility orders, which can be employed to give the step-parent legal status. Parental Responsibility is a good option for giving step-parent’s the status which they need to parent children, without severing the legal links with the children’s natural family.