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Step parents and partners; do they get any say in parental decisions?

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Romantic relationships with partners who are not the biological parent of one's children can be quite difficult; especially when it comes to setting rules, boundaries, and deciding what is in the best interest of the child(ren).

One young woman, we'll call her Ann, is going through a situation with her partner, the mother of a lovely little girl. The mother wants her daughter to know her biological father (whom the daughter has never met previously) for two reasons. First, she feels it will be important to the child to know her father, and second, she is seeking child support so a certain amount of visitation/custody would come with that.

What is in question by Ann is her partner's judgment in seeking to bring the father (who did not know he had a daughter until recently) into the child's life because the father just got out of jail for dealing drugs; specifically, heroin. While Ann is not completely opposed to a father knowing his daughter, she feels that until such time as this man gets his life back on the right track (i.e. drug and drug dealing free), visitations should be supervised by the court for the safety of the child. Her partner disagrees, and figures since Ann is not the parent, she has no say and her feelings on the subject are being disregarded.

Ann is a full time criminal justice student who has taken care of the child every day since she was born. She has been a loving parental figure and caregiver from day one yet despite all of this, and the bond she shares with this child, she is still not a biological parent and lacks the legal rights thereof.

Situations like this happen often with step-parents and life partners. The person with children feels that all the parenting decisions are his/hers to make alone, autonomously. It becomes a strain on the romantic relationship due to the inequality and imbalance. The love and concern that the non-biological partner has for the child(ren) is not allowed to manifest itself in the form of rules, boundaries, and decisions of well-being for the kids.

Sometimes, this spells trouble for that romantic relationship that may not be easy to fix, if at all. If residing under the same roof, both partners should have equal say, but all decisions should be made jointly with respect for each other in mind, and also a little more give from the non-biological partner. When it comes to the best interest of a child, all sides should be acknowledged, and more than just child support and DNA should be considered. Biology does not always a good parent make, so to speak.

As for Ann, patience is advised along with gently and respectfully voicing her concerns. Being supportive while also being the voice of reason will go a long way towards continuing to look out for the child while still maintaining peace within her relationship with the mother.

Michele Gwynn is a freelance journalist and author living in San Antonio, Texas. All articles are under copyright and may not be reposted in part or whole without consent. Articles may only be referenced by title or subject matter with a direct link to original material otherwise. For permission to repost part or all of an article, please contact Ms. Gwynn at



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