Originally Posted by Laurene Smith
I realize the OP posted this months ago, but the topic is surely pertinent and interesting to most step-parents.
I am not an attorney, but I believe in loco parentis
is relevant when a parent is out of the picture
. The term used to be used with regard to teachers: in the parents' absence, teachers were responsibile to care for their students and
had the right to discipline them as they saw fit. But I think use of it, with teachers, has fallen by the wayside, along with corporal punishment. Instead, schools use the "when in doubt, call the parents" approach.
I don't think the term automatically applies to step-parents, either, because there's an assumption that kids are still under a biological parent's authority, when a step-parent cares for them. Ex.: If Dad is off playing golf and left his kids with StepMom all day, if one of the kids has an accident and needs emergency surgery, a parent
would still need to give consent (whereas, in the 1800's, a child's teacher could have given consent under similar circumstances).
Not to sympathize overmuch with the OP's kids' stepmom - who should not bad-mouth her within earshot of the kids! - but a stepparent's legal limbo really sucks. When we hear about abused kids on the news, there's no hesitance on the part of society or courts, to hold step-parents accountable, right along with the parents. But on the other hand, a step-parent who truly steps up in a parental role isn't even guaranteed the right to visit
the stepkids, if he/she divorces their bio parent.