Step-parent custody

I suggest seeking to modify the agreement you have in place to show joint physical custody instead of her having primary physical custody. Asking to modify for joint physical custody could be easier than asking the stbx to let you have custody. This way she wouldn’t feel as though she’s giving her children away even though it sounds as though you have been the only parent with any dependability…

NC defaults to joint legal custody if it is not specified, so if your agreement deals solely with physical custody, then you already have legal custody which is what is needed to be involved in medical, educational, and religious decisions for your children.

EDIT: I read this wrong and thought you said you did adopt. I’m not certain if an agreement between you and the mother is enough for you to gain joint custody. You may have to file for it in court against both the biological parents. I will be interested to see what the attorney says. I know that step parents can gain custody of children, but I think that it’s normally a difficult process…
Have you consulted with an attorney?

I applaud you for what you’re doing for the children. They are SO lucky to have such a caring and loving step-father. [:D]

Is your ex wife willing to enter into an agreement giving you custody of the children? You can do this even before the waiting period is over.

P.S. Please feel free to bring up this or any other topic on our live call-in show every Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. EST. Visit for details

Helena M. Nevicosi
Attorney with Rosen Law Firm

4101 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 500
Raleigh, North Carolina 27607
919.787.6668 main phone
919.787.6361 main fax

Charlotte Office
301 McCullough Drive
Suite 510
Charlotte, NC 28262
Main Phone: (704)307.4600
Main Fax: (704) 9343.0044

Sutton Station
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Durham, NC 27713
Phone: (919) 321-0780


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I have a seperation agreement in place that presumed the children of my wife’s first marriage would live with her. Subsequently, the children requested her permission to live with me, and they are currently living with me. My wife moved to South Carolina and is living with a boyfriend. I do not have evidence of any type of abuse, and the only neglect of the children was emotional. I do not believe there are grounds to claim she is an unfit parent. She does have a very limited income, and it would be difficult for her to take care of the children properly.

I did not adopt the children when they were young out of respect for the wishes of their biological father. I have been their parent for the past 12 years. Their biological father is not financially able to take care of the children, nor do they desire to live with him.

When the waiting period is complete in December 2008 and I file for divorce, what can I do to give me the legal standing to sign medical forms or other documents required for the care of the children? They are 16 and 17.

Is my only option to ask my wife to agree to a modification of the separation agreement that gives me physical custody of the children?
Would that be enough to allow me to sign forms for medical care, etc.?

From my reading of the “Duties of a Guardian” NC publication, I would not qualify to be made thier guardian because their mother is living.

Do I need additional legal representation to make sure I am able to take care of the children? I do not want to limit their mother’s access to the children, but I would like to be able to prevent her from compelling them to live with her.

Thank you

George C. Wolfe