When it comes to divorce, child custody, and visitation issues, most people think about how the divorced biological parents of children will navigate the legal complexities of these cases. However, there are potentially several other adults and caretakers who may be impacted when the parents of a child or children decide to split. These include godparents, grandparents and stepparents.
If your partner already had a child (or children) from a previous relationship, it’s easy to grow attached to them over the course of the marriage. But what happens if you and your partner decide to end your relationship? Do stepparents have any visitation rights after a divorce?
Texas Rights of Stepparents After Divorce
In most divorce cases in Texas, stepparents have few rights when it comes to accessing their former stepchildren. Texas law categorizes stepparents as “interested third parties.” This means that the court is under no obligation to grant any sort of visitation. However, stepparents can petition the court for visitation. It’ll be up to the court’s discretion whether or not they grant it.
Factors that a court may consider include:
- The length of the stepparent-child relationship
- How active the stepparent is in the child’s life
- The emotional bond between the child and stepparent
- The child’s wishes and best interests
If you are a stepparent and you do choose to petition the court, here are some things to keep in mind. You’re a third party in this situation, and the biological parents have the right to fight any request you make—and as the courts prioritize the wishes of biological parents, they’ll likely have the upper hand. It will work in your favor, however, if you’ve been involved in raising the child or children for many years, or have offered direct financial support for them. And if the biological parents are willing to allow it, then the court will likely grant your request and work out a visitation schedule.
Alternatives to Going to Court
The question of whether or not you will need to petition the court has a lot to do with your relationship with your former spouse. If the divorce has gone smoothly, you might be able to work out visitation with the parent who holds custody of your former stepchildren. If so, you can create a visitation schedule together. Otherwise the court will have to step in.
This blog does not constitute legal advice. If you have questions about divorce law, child custody, visitation, or what rights stepparents have in a divorce, contact the experts at Sandoval Family Law today.
At Sandoval Law Firm we understand the stress of dealing with divorce, child custody and domestic violence. Our firm consists of founding attorney Raul Sandoval Jr. and a dedicated support staff. Mr. Sandoval earned his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law. Since that time, he has been practicing family law in the Austin area, as well as teaching seminars, classes and other forms of professional development.