When you fall in love with someone who already has kids, their children become part of your family. Many blended families spend a lifetime together, but sometimes a stepparent finds themself in an unstable situation.
They know that their marriage will soon end, but they have a strong bond with the child. Despite having never adopted their stepchild, this stepparent has fulfilled all the obligations of a parent. They have provided shelter for the child, met their physical and psychological needs, and interact with them like a parent would.
All too often, loving and supportive stepparents presume they have no grounds to ask for parental rights when divorcing the parent of their stepchild. However, Texas recognizes that not just biological or adoptive parents have the right to custody and visitation.
Texas recognizes parental relationships can come in many forms
Texas family law extends certain rights and protections to anyone who fulfills the role of a parent in the life of a child. Many times, it is a grandparent who invokes their statutory right to custody or at least visitation with a child, but the same rule applies to many other situations.
Stepparents who have a deep bond with their stepchildren could potentially invoke Texas state law when asking the courts for custody or visitation. Those in other unconventional relationship situations, like long-term cohabitating romantic partners where one has an adopted or biological child, could also use this law to protect their relationship with the children they love if the relationship with the parent falls apart.
Parental rights typically come with parental responsibilities
If you do ask the court for shared custody or visitation, you need to understand that a ruling in your favor will also come with obligations. You may have to pay child support or assuming full custody if something prevents your ex from parenting.
Really looking at the implications of asking for custody in a divorce involving stepchildren can help you make the best decision. In some cases, formal custody may not be the best approach, especially if your ex will still allow you to spend some time with your stepchildren. Many others, the courts can be the surest way to protect the bond they have with their stepchildren.