The role of a step-parent is often described as the hardest of parenting roles. A step-parent is a person who is either married to or is the civil partner of a child’s parent. The step-parent may be required to exercise authority and judgement and to assist bringing up children with whom they live, whilst at the same time having no legal status. Sometimes they are considered as a threat by surviving natural parents.
Families often consider ways in which to give a step-parent a legal status. This may be helpful in circumstances where the children’s parents are divorced and the resident parent wants to give his/her new partner some status, or one of the children’s natural parents has died and the surviving natural parent also dies leaving the step-parent looking after the children.
Adoption is often the solution which families initially think of. However, this can be complicated and is a rather drastic step in that it severs all legal ties with at least one side of the children’s natural family. There are other alternatives, such as child arrangements orders, which can be employed to give the step-parent parental responsibility. This will give a step-parent the status which they need to parent children, without severing the legal links with the children’s natural family.