Many people dream of meeting their first love, getting married, and having their first children together. In today’s world, however, this is becoming more uncommon. Divorce rates have increased over the years, and among individuals in their second or subsequent marriage, over 40% already have children with someone else. If these relationships end up failing as well, this can raise the question of whether stepparents have rights in Texas.
As with most issues in family law, the answer is complicated. A Texas child custody attorney can help you navigate these complex legal waters, and this guide will give you a better understanding of what to expect.
Can a Stepparent Assert Rights After a Divorce?
There are times when a child’s relationship with their stepparent may be one of the only parental relationships they know. Stepparents are often in a child’s life for years, so the end of a relationship between two adults is unlikely to sever the love and affection that a stepchild feels for their stepparent. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to maintain such a relationship after a divorce.
That’s because the courts will typically defer to the wishes of biological parents. When it comes to Texas law, a stepparent is merely an “interested third party.” However, this designation means they can petition a family court for visitation and even custody. This is an enormous legal endeavor to undertake, but with the help of a Texas family law attorney, it is possible.
What Happens if the Child’s Biological Parent Dies?
A stepparent seeking rights in Texas doesn’t always find themselves in this situation due to divorce. In tragic cases, the biological parent of the child may die. This could create a heartbreaking scenario where a stepchild and the only parent they have left are unsure of their future. Fortunately, it is possible for stepparents to assert rights in such a situation — but such rights will not be automatic.
For a stepparent to gain custody after the death of their spouse, they must show the court that their stepchild and deceased partner have lived with them for at least six months. This six-month period must have ended no more than 90 days before the petition for custody is filed. The court will consider several factors related to where the family lived, but it’s possible for a stepparent to get custody in Texas in such situations.
Does a Stepparent Gain Rights After Adoption?
A surefire way for a stepparent to attain rights in Texas is to adopt their stepchild. By going through this process, they will establish the same rights as a biological parent. Doing so can simplify many issues. For instance, a stepparent can typically gain visitation rights in a divorce — as long as doing so doesn’t endanger the child — regardless of what the biological parent says.
Adopting a stepchild also removes the legal requirements of seeking custody if the biological parent dies. Of course, these are all rare situations since only about 5% of stepchildren are adopted by their parent’s new spouse. Put simply, figuring out whether a stepparent has rights in Texas can be a complex matter. Let our law firm help you figure it out.