When Blended Families Divorce: Stepparents, Child Visitation, and Child Custody in Washington State

Divorce is complicated. Remarrying is complicated. And getting divorced a second time is even more complicated. If children are involved, it can be downright confusing and very stressful. What are the basics that stepparents should know when divorcing a spouse who has children from a previous marriage? 

Stepparents and Child Custody 

Child with step parent at parkIt is rare for stepparents to get legal custody of children in a divorce, as children will be much more likely to stay with one of their biological parents. However, there are rare instances of a stepmother or stepfather getting custody or joint custody. If the biological parent or parents have been found unfit to parent or if they are no longer living, if the biological parent or parents have given up their rights, or if the stepparent has legally adopted the child in the years before the divorce, a stepparent might gain custody. 

Stepparents and Child Visitation 

Even though you will not likely gain custody of your stepchildren, it is increasingly common for stepparents to ask for and receive visitation rights after a divorce from the children’s parent. Getting visitation rights in Washington depends heavily on the best interests of the child. If you have a deep, long-term relationship with the child that is key to their happiness and development, the court will likely wish you to have access to that child. 

Stepparents and Child Support  

Washington State has a statute that legally obligates stepparents to help financially support any stepchildren living in their household. However, this obligation usually ends when parents divorce. Child support payments are usually only the responsibility of the biological parents. There are exceptions, of course. If you have legally adopted the children, for example, you may need to make child support payments. 

It is important to note, though, that many stepparents continue relationships with their stepchildren even after a divorce, even though there may not be a legal agreement. Especially if they cared for the children for many years, it is normal for both stepparent and stepchild to extend their emotional bond and spend time with each other. 

Ask Yourself These Questions

We have outlined 10 important questions stepparents should consider regarding child custody in Washington State.

Washington Child Custody Attorney

Are you getting a divorce and unsure of the outcome for the children in your blended family? Get help and answers from one of the experienced Bellevue child custody attorneys at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny. Call us today to schedule your first meeting: 425-460-0550.

Molly B. Kenny
Founder and Principal Divorce Attorney
Molly B. Kenny's Bellevue family law office is conveniently located on Lake Bellevue Drive, making it easily accessible to those in the greater Seattle area. Our divorce and child custody lawyers help men and women get the information, guidance, and compassionate representation they need.
Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny