Do I Have to Let My 12 Year Old Go Live with His Step-Father?

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“I have a question about my 12 year old son. He wants to live with his step-father. We have been divorced since 1999. Since our divorce he hasn’t paid any child support,nor has he lived with him. Step-father said that as he wasn’t the biological father he was under no legal obligation to pay. He does hold medical insurance for him. There are no custodial papers or support papers written up between step-father and myself.. He was always good to him but being he isn’t his bilogical son do I have to allow this? And what can step-father do legally to get him to stay? We now live in Mn and he lives in Pa. Biological father gave up his rights soon after son’s birth, Son has step-father’s last name because it was my last name at the time of his birth, On son’s birth certificate it states his real father’s name not step-father’s, Does step-father have any rights, and if so what? Son wants to live with him not because there is anything wrong here, but because he has “more fun” there.”

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

Minnesota uses a “best interests of the child” standard, and maybe you should think along those lines. My first question would relate to what is in your divorce decree concerning custody and visitation. That is where the Court would start.

I am trying to think of a scenario where a biological father was able to give up his parental rights without an adoption, and was not still liable for support. I suppose he could have voluntarily terminated his parental rights, but he still would have been on the hook for child support. If biological father is dead, I suppose this could be the case. So if this is the case, then stepfather could petition for visitation, and likely visitation only.

If stepfather is the presumed parent (MN Statute 257.55) or adopted parent, then he will have the full panoply of rights and obligations vis a vis your son. This would include the right to timeshare (custody and visitation) and the obligation of support. Carrying someone on health insurance is a form of support, and also evidence of a legal relationship between your son and stepfather.

As always, check with a local attorney, and use the “free consultation” as a way to gather information and strategy. Your son’s wishes are but one factor the Court would consider. The Court would look to the totality of circumstances to determine your son’s best interests. I do suggest that you and stepfather have a private and frank discussion about what is best for your son and get your son out of the position of decision-maker.

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Author: House Attorney

A house attorney has answered this question.