The Brady Brunch was a classic 1970’s sitcom showing Mike and Carol Brady seamlessly co-parenting their large blended family. The girls never told Mike, “You’re not my real dad!” The boys never told Carol they wanted to go live with their mom. Mike and Carol knew their role was to support the actions of their spouse. However, step-parents cannot all be Mike and Carol. Sometimes step-parents overstep their role, or are given a greater role by the parent to whom they are married, with unfortunate results.
Can a step-parent volunteer at the school party? Sure, so long as both parents have been given the opportunity to volunteer and are unable to do so.
Can a step-parent attend medical appointments? It depends. If the spouse of the step-parent cannot attend, and the other parent plans on attending, it may or may not be a good idea. If information needs to be relayed regarding how to do a breathing treatment, or monitor the progress of ADHD medication, for example, and it would be helpful to have the same information heard by someone in both households, so long as the relationship with the other parent will not negatively impact the doctor’s ability to treat the child or create a scene, the step-parent may attend. It’s important to note, however, that a step-parent cannot make medical decisions for the child. Only parents can do that.
Can a step-parent attend a child’s sporting event? So long as the step-parent behaves appropriately and does not embarrass the child to create drama with either parent, yes.
Can a step-parent provide childcare for the child if the parent who should be exercising parenting time will not be home for parenting time? Unless there is a court order that states that parents must be personally present for parenting time, if the step-parent and parent live together, then yes. If a household family member related by blood or marriage resides in the home and is available to provide the care, which would include a step-parent, then they may do so. However, if the parent is going to be gone for most or all of the parenting time in question, common sense would suggest that perhaps the parent who will not be home should offer to switch weekends with the other parent for a time when he or she will be home, if possible.
Can a step-parent discipline a child? If corporal punishment such as spanking the child, especially with a belt or switch, absolutely not. If parents discipline with timeouts or taking away privileges, this may be best left to the parent to set out the punishment; however, the step-parent may assist with administering the consequences and/or not giving in until the punishment period is over.
Obviously, if a step-parent has a good relationship with the parent to whom they are not married, then of course they may be included in as many school activities, extracurriculars and medical appointments and even discipline as the parties find appropriate. It’s only when the step-parent creates conflict with the other parent or between the parents and does not facilitate a positive experience for the child that rules and boundaries need to be discussed or even included in a court order.