By Jedidiah McKeehan

Step-parents sit in unique situations.  They are in a relationship with someone who has a child who is not their own, and by being in a relationship with this person, they have become a step-parent to this child who is not their own, and may never be their own.

Let’s run through a hypothetical situation.  Say a couple has a child together, gets divorced and they have 50/50 visitation with that child.  Say the father of that child then remarries and the new wife develops a positive and strong bond with that child from the previous marriage.  This all seems very believable, right?  Well, what if father and new wife get divorced.  Does the new wife have any rights to ever see that child again?  The one who is not their own, but with they have developed a strong bond with?

Generally, the answer is no.  Sorry, this child is not your own, and any relationship you would have going forward with the child would be at the discretion of the child’s natural parents until that child turns 18 and can make their own decisions about who they want to spend time with.

There is one exception to this though.  Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-6-303 states, “In a suit for annulment, divorce or separate maintenance where one (1) party is a stepparent to a minor child born to the other party, such stepparent may be granted reasonable visitation rights to such child during the child’s minority by the court of competent jurisdiction upon a finding that such visitation rights would be in the best interests of the minor child and that such stepparent is actually providing or contributing towards the support of such child.”

So, if someone really wants to exercise visitation with their step-child, they will have to show that the visitation award is in the child’s best interest, and that the step-parent has been contributing to the support of the minor child (this means monetarily providing for the child’s needs).

So, if you are wondering if you get divorced whether you can get awarded visitation rights to your step-child, the answer is that it is possible, but not very likely.

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.