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A person who is married to the father or mother of a child but is not the natural parent of the child. A step-parent has no automatic legal status in relation to his or her step-children, but will usually qualify to apply, as of right, for a section 8 order in respect of the child by virtue of being married to the child's natural parent. Until recently step-parents could only acquire parental responsibility either by applying to court for a residence order (which automatically confers parental responsibility) or by applying to adopt the child together with the child's natural parent. The Children Act 1989, as amended by the Adoption and Children Act 2002, has given the court a new power to confer parental responsibility on the step-parent, so long as both natural parents agree. There is a policy of discouraging step-parent adoption since the effect will be to irrevocably sever the child's legal ties with its other natural parent.

Subjects: Law.

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