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16 Pages

Stepfamilies from a Policy Perspective: Guidance from the Empirical Literature

WithMark A. Fine

A number of legal scholars in the United States (US) have expressed concerns about the uncertain status of stepfamilies in the law (Mahoney, 1994; Ramsey, 1994). Stepfamily members are typically not granted a number of rights and the accompanying responsibilities that are afforded members of biological families. In addition, their treatment under the law varies depending on the issue and, because laws affecting families in the United States are decided at the state level, geographic location. For example, Mahoney (1994) shows that the stepparent-stepchild relationship has received its greatest legal recognition in the area of Worker’s Compensation law, which addresses who receives benefits in the event of injury or death in an industrial accident. By contrast, this relationship has received relatively little legal recognition in the area of inheritance, where, in the absence of a will, stepchildren are seldom allowed to inherit from their stepparents.