Do Step Parents Have Rights in a Divorce?
Step parents can become an important part of a child’s life. As a step parent, going through a divorce can be especially challenging. While step parents certainly have the exact same rights as everyone else in regards to financial issues like property division and spousal support obligations, step parents have limited child custody and child visitation rights . In this article, our top-rated Pearland, TX divorce attorney explains what step parents need to know about their rights under Texas law.
Texas Views Step Parents as ‘Interested Third Parties’
In the state of Texas, step parents have no direct child custody or child visitation rights in the event of divorce. This is in direct contrast to a child’s parents, who are assumed to have general custody and visitation rights. For a Texas court to decide not to grant visitation rights to a biological parent, there must be truly extraordinary circumstances.
However, Texas law views a step parents as an ‘interested third party.’ What does that mean in practical terms? A step parent’s rights are more akin to the rights of the child’s uncle or aunt. For a court to grant a step parent visitation rights, he or she will be required to file an active petition to the court. If either of the child’s parents strenuously objects to a step parent’s request for visitation, that obstacle will be difficult to overcome.
It should be made clear that it is not impossible for a step parent to get child custody or child visitation rights. Ultimately, these cases are decided under Texas Family Code (FAM § 263.307) . This is the state’s best interests of the child legal standard. In a small number of cases, it might be in the best interests of the child to live with the step parent after a divorce. This would generally only occur if the child’s parent(s) are unable or unwilling to provide the child with a healthy and safe environment. If you are a step parent involved in this type of case, it is imperative that you speak to a Texas child custody attorney immediately. You need to take quick action to protect your rights and your child’s well being.
A step parent who wants to be involved in a step child’s life after a divorce may want to try to reach a mutual agreement with the former spouse. In this circumstance, you should consider consulting with a lawyer to determine how this type of agreement could be part of your broader divorce settlement.
At John Powell III, P.C. , our top-rated divorce lawyer has the skills and experience needed to protect the interests of step parents going through a marital separation. If you are a step parent getting divorced in Texas, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm for a private consultation. With an office in Pearland, we represent clients throughout the region, including in Harris County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Galveston County.