A lot of relationships change in a divorce. For many people, that includes their bond with their stepchildren. Virginia stepparents who have not adopted their stepchild have no legal rights. You cannot maintain your connection to the child without court approval.

Your rights as a stepparent are secondary to the rights of the birth parents. They can refuse to let you continue your relationship. There is a way to continue your relationship.

Virginia recognizes your rights as “a person of legitimate interest” in the child’s life. Through that classification, you can petition the court to continue your relationship.

What does it mean to be a “person with a legitimate interest?”

As a stepparent, are a person with a legitimate interest in the child’s life. It is a classification you share with grandparents and other relatives who are not biological parents.

The classification allows you to petition the court if the birth parents deny you visitation. You must prove your continued relationship is in the best interest of the child.

You can prove that by demonstrating:

  • How long you have been a part of the child’s life.
  • You have been the main parent in place of the birth parent? If so, how long?
  • Emotional and financial ties.
  • Activities you shared with the child.
  • Harm done to the child if your relationship ends.

The best interests of the child will be the deciding factor

Your relationship with your stepchild matters. There might be ways to protect that connection. You will have to prove that continuing your relationship is in the best interest of the child. Knowing your rights as a person with a legitimate interest in the child will help you maintain your bond.