Sometimes when couples get married, one spouse already has children from a previous relationship, and this new marriage creates a stepparent relationship between that new partner and the child. In some cases, this stepparent is either the first or only mother or father-figure in the child’s life, so it is natural for the two to develop a strong bond. This bond can also form if the spouses are married for an extended period of time. Regardless of how that bond forms, if the couple decides to get a divorce, seperating the stepparent from the child can be heart-breaking. No matter how much the stepparent loves the child, and no matter how good the intentions are of the stepparent, that stepparent will have an extraordinary time asserting his or her right to visitation with the child. Obtaining access to the child is difficult, but with the right lawyer, it is possible.
Do Stepparents Have Visitation Rights to the Child After a Divorce?
Under Texas law, when a couple gets a divorce, former stepparents have no visitation rights. The law views them as ‘interested third parties’ and allows them to petition the family law court and formally request visitation, but this visitation is not automatic. If either biological parent objects, the court will be inclined to deny visitation. This factor can be a massive issue for stepparents that divorced on poor terms and no longer have a positive relationship with their ex-spouse or for stepparents that never liked or got along with the child’s other biological parent.
Is There Any Chance That the Court Will Grant a Stepparent Visitation of a Child?
The court bases its decision on what is in the best interest of the child, and in rare cases, visitation may be granted despite the biological parent’s objections.
Factors the court may consider when determining what is in a child’s best interest:
- How long did the stepparent-child relationship last? The longer the relationship, the more likely the court is to give the request more weight.
- How emotionally close are the stepparent and child? Children may be interviewed in the judge’s chambers to give them a chance to express their preferences.
- How active is the stepparent in the child’s life? Has the stepparent been involved with the children in extra-curricular activities or attended parent-teacher conferences? The court will consider all relevant evidence.
- Has the stepparent contributed to the financial support of the child?
- Will it be detrimental to the child if the visitation request is denied?
If the court determines it is in the best interest of the child, visitation will be granted.
If you are a former stepparent seeking visitation, or a biological parent hoping to bar visitation, contact an experienced family law attorney. Obtaining visitation is difficult but not impossible, so you must be thoroughly prepared regardless of which side you’re on.
One area of Texas family law that is undergoing great change is grandparent’s rights. In general, grandparents have limited rights to their grandchildren. Luckily for most grandparents, this limitation is not a problem—many are able to work out an arrangement between themselves and their children without involving the court.