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Stepmothers Have No Rights!

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How will Sandra Bullock fare in court if she decides to split from Jesse James? An attorney (who's also a stepmom) breaks it down.

sandra bullock

Robin Sax: I am a stepmother of two boys myself, and I can tell you: Stepmothers have no rights when it comes to the kids.

In a divorce or separation situation, the stepmother has absolutely no rights to the children, no matter how close she was to them. If things turn ugly between Sandra and Jesse, and he says he doesn't want Sandra to see the kids, then she won't be seeing the kids -- unless she can work out something with the mom (and they reportedly have a contentious relationship).

Now, hopefully, Jesse would never do that to the kids. Hopefully, he will do what's in the best interest of his children -- even if things get tense between him and Sandra. But you never know how people will react in situations like this.

Another thing that people often don't think about is what happens to the stepmother if her husband dies in some freak accident. The stepmother has zero custody in those tragic instances, even if she and her husband were married at the time of his death. Sole custody automatically reverts back to the biological mother. You can have your husband put a request in his will that the biological mother give visitation to you as the stepmother, but the biological mother does not have to honor that request by law.

It's unfair, but true: Stepmothers have all the responsibilities of parenthood, but they have none of the rights.

next: Evil Charles Manson Baby?!
14 comments so far | Post a comment now
Black Iris March 19, 2010, 12:12 PM

The real question is - why don’t the kids have any rights in all this?

molly March 19, 2010, 1:10 PM

I know not in this case…but what if the father has sole custody (because the biological mother is “unfit” or a porn star or whatever) and then the father dies - and the stepmother is a good, stable person - can the stepmother retain the children, if they are minors. don’t judges look at things like who raised the children - if it’s several years …I know not in this case…but in a scenario where the father has sole custody and dies…does the biological mother still get the kids back?

Robin March 19, 2010, 5:46 PM

If the father had sole custody and then father died, the stepmom could try to assert parental rights. At that point the court will balance the available/willing biological family members with the step mom….and of course it would also depend what was stated in the will/trust in terms of guardians. If dad’s will nominated a guardian, and it was not step mom then the guardian nomination would start with the dad’s preference. So parents (especially parents with kids from a prior marriage) should make sure they do some sort of will naming preferences for guardian.

Rawrzellers March 19, 2010, 11:32 PM

The kids do have rights in this, they can make or break the case. Their testimony could drastically change the courts choice. Kids always have a say in which parent they want to live with. And I believe if they say they want to live with Sandra the court will most likely be in favor of that. Hell they could even lie about abuse and what not if they wanted too. Kids are the parents most powerful tool when it comes to custody battles.

molly March 23, 2010, 12:27 PM

It just seems so unfair. In many instances, the “step parent” is so much better then BOTH the biological parent, and yet they have no rights! I speak from experience because my father was very abusive and he threatened us with all kinds of harm if we “told anybody about it”. so, as a child - I just did what he said so I wouldn’t get beat and when I was old enough to realize what he was doing (evading child welfare and any judges because they often do listen to what the children want) was too late because I had just reached the age of majority.

dani March 25, 2010, 6:21 AM

Well in Jesse’s case, even though he’s not dead, but in a situation like his (maybe not his exactly)but like his where the court has rules and a judge has ordered that the biological mother is unfit and not able to parent and all that fancy language, it doesn’t matter that the biological mother is “willing and available” right? when you have a stepmother who is a million times better then the biological mother, and in some cases the biological father too. Doesn’t that mean anything, if the father dies and THE COURT HAS ORDERED the bio mom unfit. not just a rumor, but a court order..even if bio mom is willing available,…they can’t override court orders..can they???

Brandy March 26, 2010, 11:55 AM

It is terrible and sad that stepmoms do not have any rights to the children they love, consider their own, and so often end up having to raise. It is also terrible that a child would not only lose their father in the situation where the father died, but also lose a stepmom that they have bonded with.

Sarah March 26, 2010, 12:56 PM

After some research I found that some states, such as Georgia(thank goodness!)do have stepparent rights. You can ask for visitation in the event of a divorce from the biological parent if you can prove it is in the best interest of the child. And seek custody in the event of death. But you must prove the other biological parent unfit for custody.

Tracey April 26, 2010, 8:24 AM

What if the mother is dying of cancer and doesn’t have much time to live and the children live with the father & stepmom. The mother & father both have joint custody. The mother passes away and the father has given the stepmom guardianship. Then later something happens to the father, then who would the children live with. I am faced with these questions now because the mother is dying of cancer and I have raised the children since they were very very young.

Willis Rusche July 25, 2010, 10:23 PM

@Sara- I feel the same way

Joey January 18, 2011, 4:47 PM

What if both bio mom and dad agree that they want the step mom to have visitation or custody of the child if something happens and it is in the custody agreement and their individual wills with the same verbiage? Would that give step mom the rights?

ala January 24, 2011, 12:03 AM

I would never fight in court to take another’s woman child. PERIOD!!!!

JDM March 1, 2011, 12:29 PM

Or take my situation. My child’s stepmother has been married to my ex for just ONE month, and has only been in my child’s presence for all of a week total, just during a visit, and now this woman is threatening me. She says she has and demands her “rights” to visit my child, even though her husband is out of the country. She has threatened me with custody battles. She introduces my child as hers and calls herself my child’s new mother. She claims she has legal documents that state she will in herit custody over my child’s own biological family if anything happens to me and my ex.

Those types of step-parents are the ones that make me thankful there are no step-parent rigts.

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