Do Step Parents Have Any Rights In A Divorce In Texas?
A step parent can play a very important role in the development of a child. If you are a step parent preparing to separate for your spouse, you may want to know: Do I have a right to seek custody or visitation for a stepchild in Texas? The short answer is that step parents have very limited rights, unless they legally adopt their stepchild. In this blog post, our Houston and Galveston divorce attorneys explain the most important things you should know about step parents’ rights and divorce in Texas.
Texas is a Best Interests of the Child State
As background information, it is important to understand Texas law regarding custody and visitation rights. Our state uses the best interests of the child standard for custody and visitation cases after a divorce. Under Texas Family Code § 153.002, “the best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.” Notably, the term “conservatorship” is officially used in Texas to describe the concept of “custody” and the terms “possession” and “access” are essentially used to cover the concept of “visitation.”
Texas Law: A Step Parent is an “interested Third Party”
Both of a child’s legal parents have a right to seek custody and visitation. However, a child’s step parent has no automatic legal right to request child custody or child visitation after a divorce. It does not matter if the step parent has been in the child’s life for many years, neither custody or visitation is guaranteed. Instead, Texas views step parents as “interested third parties” under the law.
It is relatively uncommon for interested third parties to be granted court-protected custody or visitation rights over the objections of the child’s legal parent. Courts only provide interested third parties, such as grandparents or step parents, custody or visitation rights when there is overwhelming evidence presented that proves that doing so is necessary to protect the best interests of the child.
Summary: A step parent simply does not have much in the legal way of parental rights after a divorce in Texas. The child’s biological/legal parent is given primary consideration.
It is Different if the Step Parent Formally Adopted the Child
If a step parent has formally adopted their step child, that changes everything. Once a step parent adoption is finalized, there is no legal distinction between a biological parent and a step parent. Both are legal parents of the child. A step parent who has adopted their step child has full and equal rights to seek custody and visitation after a divorce.
Call Our Houston and Galveston Divorce Attorneys for a Legal Advice
At Lindamood & Robinson, P.C., our Texas divorce lawyers are committed to finding solutions that work for our clients. If you have any questions about step parent rights and divorce, we are more than ready to get you the answers you can trust. Call our office at 713-654-2112 or reach out to us directly online for a strictly confidential, no strings attached initial case evaluation.