The term “step-parent” has no legal definition; The law moreover often calls it ” the third party.” The step-parent is thus a “third party” to the filiation of the child.
A step-parent, what is it?
More commonly the step-parent is usually the spouse, partner or cohabiting partner of one of the child’s parents. Having no parentage in respect of the child, he does not in principle have any rights or obligations towards him.
The same applies if the parents of the child are separated. Indeed, the separation of the parents does not, as a matter of principle, affect the rules governing the exercise of parental authority. However, there are certain mechanisms that allow a step-parent to have rights over a child who is not legally his or her own.
Can the step-parent exercise parental authority over the child?
Since the law of 4 March 2002, the possibilities of entrusting the exercise of parental authority to a third party have changed considerably. It is now permissible to entrust the exercise of parental rights to a step-parent: to do so, the parents must proceed with a voluntary delegation of parental rights.
First of all, it must be borne in mind that such a delegation must necessarily be the subject of judgment, in other words, the judge must give its consent.
The judge to be contacted is the family judge in the jurisdiction of the place of residence of the child concerned (note that the assistance of a lawyer is not compulsory).
Parents with parental authority must jointly formulate the request for the benefit of the step-parent (then designated as a trusted third party). In other words, if one of the parents has withdrawn the exercise, he will not have to agree to the delegation. The parent (s) who will then share the exercise of parental authority will not be deprived. So there will be at least three people who will exercise parental rights over the child.
Warning ! It is imperative that the delegation meets the interests of the child; It is neither a right for the parents nor the step-parent.
In other words, even if the conditions are met, the judge may refuse it if, in his view, it is not in the best interests of the child.
If the judge refuses, the parents can only choose another third party or renounce the delegation.
What if the step-parent separates from the parent?
The parents of the child may decide to terminate the delegation of parental authority. In order to do so, they must refer the case back to the Family Court. The effect of the judge’s decision is to remove the right of the step-parent to exercise parental authority over the child and to restore the fullness of those rights to the parents.
However, it will be necessary to justify a change of circumstances (of the separation between the step-parent and the parent for example), it is not decided on a whim!
Note: if the delegation is revoked, the delegate – in other words the step-parent – can obtain reimbursement of all or part of the expenses incurred for the maintenance and upbringing of the child.
Moreover, in the event of separation between the parent and the step-parent, the latter has the right to have and maintain personal relationships with the child.
However, the step-parent is still not the parent
Even if he / she has delegated parental authority, the step-parent is still not the parent, he / she has no parentage relationship with the child (except in the case of a parent, Adoption ). In particular, he will not be able to obtain legal aid or assistance from the child, even if he has raised it!
In addition, the step-parent can make a donation to the child only if he / she is not married to the parent (although it will always be taxable).
Can the step-parent become a parent?
In some circumstances, the step-parent may become a parent of the child. This will be done through adoption. Adoption can be simple or plenary. More generally, there will be simple adoption by the step-parent since in this case there is no break in the child’s filiation ties with his biological family.
In the case of a full adoption by cons, the child loses all ties of filiation with his biological family in favor of a new filiation with the adopter.
In the case of adoption, the adopter and the adopted person must in principle be at least 10 years apart (there can be derogation if there are just and important reasons).