Posted on 18th May 2009

Katie Peter's Split: Advice to Divorcing Step-Parents

In the wake of Katie Price and Peter Andres marriage break-up hitting the headlines, a family law specialist at Latimer Hinks solicitors has turned the spotlight on peoples rights in connection with step-children.

The couple, who wed three and a half years ago, have two children, Junior and Princess Tiamii, and Katie, aka Jordan, has a son, Harvey, from her relationship with footballer Dwight York.

Peter Andre has been reported, in the past, as saying he would love to adopt Harvey and showbiz writers have commented on how Peter regards Harvey the same as the couples own two children.

But what are a step-parents rights and responsibilities when a marriage breaks up?

According to Judith Middleton, family law specialist and partner at Latimer Hinks, a step-parent can apply to the court for a contact order or a residence order in respect of their step-children as well as their own children.

As with his own two children, Peter can be ordered to pay maintenance for his step-son usually until he ceases full-time education or training.

Unless Peter has either obtained a court order or the consent of his step-sons father and Katie to have parental responsibility for his step-son, he cannot seek either a prohibitive steps or specific issue order in respect of him.

However, he can seek these orders for his own children and could, therefore, secure an order preventing their removal from the country or their present home until such time as the court has had an opportunity to decide what order if any should be made.

Peter has parental responsibility for his natural children and this means that he and Katie should mutually share all major decisions in respect of their children.

If Katie wants to take Princess and Junior abroad, she would need to seek Peters permission as it is an offence of child abduction to remove a child under the age of 16 from the United Kingdom without the consent of the people holding parental responsibility for the child.

Katie ought not, therefore, to remove Peters natural children without his consent, but can take or send his step-son outside of the country, so long as she has the consent of his natural father and Peter has not been given or awarded parental responsibility for him.

Judith Middleton added: Katie Price and Peter Andre are famous for their glitzy, showbiz lifestyle and as a result, on the surface, their circumstances may appear to have little in common with the average family, but this is not the case.

There are many families these days where there are children from either a previous marriage or relationship. In a lot of cases the step-mother or father has lived with these youngsters for many years and come to love them like their own.

In the event of a marriage breakdown, it is natural for step-parents to be devastated at the thought of losing touch with their step-children and for them to wonder what legal rights they have to continue seeing them and helping shape their future.

Judith Middleton is regional spokesperson for Resolution, an association of 5,000 family lawyers.