When a person with a child gets married, the person’s new spouse will often assume a parental role in the child's life, becoming the child's stepparent. For a variety of reasons, however, in many instances, a stepparent never legally adopts a child, and if the marriage falls apart, the parties may disagree as to whether the stepparent has any legal right to custody or visitation of the child. If you are a stepparent seeking parental rights or your soon to be ex-spouse wishes to obtain custody or visitation of your child, it is essential to learn about what your legal options are. The assertive Dallas child custody lawyers of McClure Law Group will work tirelessly to help you protect your parental rights and to pursue an outcome that is in the best interest of your child.Texas Law Regarding Stepparent Custody Rights
If it is possible, it is prudent for a stepparent to legally adopt a child prior to seeking a divorce. In many cases, however, the child will have two living biological parents who retain custody, or the sole individual who is legally recognized as the child’s parent will not allow an adoption to proceed. In such cases, the stepparent can take legal action to obtain custody rights. Under Texas law, any non-parent that has cared for and had actual control and possession of a child for at least six months can petition the court for conservatorship and possession. In Texas, conservatorship is the term used for legal custody, or the right to make important decisions regarding a child’s upbringing, and possession is the term used for visitation.
The Texas courts have ruled that a person will be deemed to have possession, control, and care of a child if the person tended to the child's daily needs, and provided direction and guidance to the child, similar to that the would be provided by a parent. In considering whether a stepparent has standing to pursue conservatorship or possession of a child, the court cannot demand that the six-month period be uninterrupted and continuous. The court will, however, consider where the child resided prior to when the custody suit was filed to determine if the suit is appropriate. In other words, the court will assess whether the child's principal residence was with the stepparent. In determining whether a residence is principal, the court will look at certain factors, such as whether it was a permanent or temporary residence, whether it was occupied, or intended to be occupied, for a substantial period of time, and whether it was a fixed place. If the court finds that each of these factors is met, the court may deem the stepparent to have standing to pursue conservatorship and possession. A dedicated child custody lawyer can help you determine whether these factors may be met in your case.Parental Presumption
Even if a stepparent has standing to pursue conservatorship of a child, he or she will likely face significant hurdles. Under Texas law, there is a rebuttable presumption that it is in a child’s best interest for the child’s parent to be appointed the managing conservator. Thus, the court will appoint one parent as the managing conservator or both parents as joint managing conservators for the child unless it would greatly impair the child’s emotional development or physical health. The presumption is governed by a preponderance of the evidence standard. In other words, a party seeking to rebut the presumption must show that it is more likely than not that it would be detrimental for the child for a parent to be the child’s managing conservator.Confer with a Seasoned Child Custody Lawyer in Dallas
Stepparents’ rights disputes can be complicated and arduous. If you wish to seek custody of your stepchild or believe your estranged spouse intends to file a stepparent custody action, it is prudent to confer with an attorney regarding your case. At McClure Law Group, we have the skills and experience needed to help you fight to protect your rights, and we will advocate tirelessly on your behalf. We have an office in Dallas, and we are available to meet by appointment at our Collin County office in Plano. We frequently assist people in Dallas, Fort Worth, Richardson, Garland, McKinney, Irving, Rockwall, and Frisco. Additionally, we assist parties in family law matters throughout Dallas, Grayson, Collin, Denton, Rockwall, and Tarrant Counties. We can be reached at 214.692.8200 or through the form online to schedule a consultation.