An Outraged Rant: Legal Guardianship

5 08 2009

The ostracizing of the American stepfamily continues.

As you might know already, stepparents are not legally related to their stepchildren. Laws are different in every state, and there are a few exceptions but overall WE ARE NOT FAMILY IN THE EYES OF THE LAW. That means unless you have a legal guardianship document that is signed by BOTH PARENTS if they are still living and available, then you can’t take the kids to the hospital and okay an emergency medical procedure that could save their lives, pick them up from school, ask for a report card from school, or GET THEM A LIBRARY CARD.


Today I went to the Dakota County Library in Lakeville, Minn. Because I did not have proof of legal guardianship I was not allowed to help my stepkids get library cards.

I was told this by a librarian in front of all of the children. She might as well have said YOU ARE NOT A REAL FAMILY. And a once proud stepfamily walked a little less tall today. Even though I really wanted to tell her off I knew it wasn’t this librarian’s fault. It is a policy.

With stepfamilies and the people who are not married who are living with other people’s kids OUTNUMBERING first families in America, these outdated policies are completely ridiculous.

Certainly the ostracizing of American stepfamilies will continue if we hold our tongues about tough issues or don’t share with our communities and schools and governments that their policies are based on 1950s dream-land and not the reality of the lives of the people they serve.

Please, please, please, check into the laws about your legal relationships in your state. And if you don’t have a legal guardianship document signed, ask your partner to talk to his ex about getting one signed for you.  And get it done.  

I don’t have one. Not because we haven’t had the discussion about the need for one or that anyone disagrees to it, but because no one (read DH) has ever gotten around to getting the document, encouraging our other household to sign it, and signing it himself. 

I am absolutely outraged. A library card. Three children were turned out on the street today by our country’s library system because a devoted stepparent who helps pay for the house they live in and the food they eat, who listens to them talk about their problems at school or with friends, who provides daycare during the summer, does their laundry, gives them hugs, bandages them up when they fall down, and helps try to raise them to be successful adults was not allowed to get them a library card.

This must change. It’s time we stood up for ourselves not only with our stepfamily members but with society at large, don’t you think?

Has anyone else felt ostrasized because you’re in a stepfamily? By your church, school, neighbors, government, friends, family?