Stepmother Custody Rights

by Sharon from Tampa, Florida, Hillsborough County


My husband's daughter came to live with us about five years ago. The mother was having bad times and asked him during the daughter Christmas break if she could go to school with us until she get herself together. She never did.

She moved out of state about two years ago. She was living in Florida before moving to Philadelphia.

My husband and I still live in the state of Florida. However, my husband left me 8 months ago and left his daughter with me.

He also has been arrested for battery on me and is pending a court hearing. The mother found out about this and now wants to take her daughter back to Philadelphia. She has not been in contact with her daughter at all. What are my rights?

Answer to Florida Child Custody Question

Dear Sharon,

As the step-mother you may not have any rights.

Your husband has rights, but since, as you say, he has been arrested for domestic violence, he has compromised his own rights as well.

The mother has rights and responsibilities.

Even though the mother may not have been completely responsible in the past she may be trying to do the right thing now. You don't say how old your step-daughter is.

If your step-daughter is at least 16 years old she may be able to petition the court for emancipation; and she would be treated as if she were an adult.

However, usually both parents must consent to a petition for emancipation. The following is a list of some of the things that must be included in a petition for emancipation:

  1. That the minor is independent and able to support him or herself, and his or her child, if any.

  2. A specific plan for meeting the needs of the minor if the minor is not supporting him or herself at the time of petitioning.

  3. That he or she is not dependent on public benefits.

  4. The reasons why the minor needs to be emancipated.

  5. Evidence that the removal of disabilities of nonage is in the best interest of the minor.


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