However, child custody can become increasingly complicated when parties beyond the biological parents are seeking rights with regard to the child.
For example, grandparents sometimes seek to become conservators or to be assigned possession of the child, and stepparents also may have an interest in acquiring legal rights when it comes to child custody.
But can a stepparent get custody in Texas? This is a complex question, and it is important to know that there are only limited scenarios in which a Texas court will grant custody to a stepparent.
An experienced Texas child custody lawyer can assess the specific facts of your case. In the meantime, we will provide you with additional information about non-biological parents seeking child custody in Texas.
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Seeking Child Custody Under Texas Law
In some family situations, people who have played a significant role in a child’s life and in a child’s upbringing—such as grandparents or stepparents—may want to seek custody of the child.
It is important to understand that the question of when a stepparent can be granted custody (or conservatorship) in Texas is a different question than when a stepparent can seek custody. In other words, what are the situations in which a stepparent can file a suit in order to get custody of a child, even if that stepparent ultimately is not granted any rights under Texas conservatorship and possession laws?
The Texas Supreme Court decision in In the Interest of H.S. (2018) broadened the scope of who has standing to sue for child custody. The term “standing” is a legal one that refers to a person’s right to file a lawsuit and, in most cases, to be heard before a judge. Section 1002.003(a)(9) of the Texas Family Code governs general standing to file suit. Under the specific language of the statute, a number of different parties may have standing to seek custody, but the statute does not explicitly name a stepparent. It does, however, say that a person “who has had actual care, control, and possession of the child for at least six months ending not more than 90 days preceding the date of the filing of the petition” has standing.
In the case of In the Interest of H.S. (2018), the Texas Supreme Court clarified that a person fitting into this category is relatively broad, and that it can include a stepparent who is sharing in the care, control, and possession of the child alongside one of the legal parents.
When Stepparents May Be Able to Have Child Custody
The situations in which a nonparent can be granted custody are limited under the Texas Family Code.
Typically, nonparents, including stepparents, will only be granted custody in situations where it would be in the best interests of the child and one of the following situations is true:
- Child’s biological parents have been found unfit;
- It is not in the child’s best interests for the biological parent(s) to have custody; and/or
- Biological parent no longer can have custody of the child due to the parent’s death, desertion, or for another reason.
In such a situation, the nonparent may be eligible to have custody and ultimately to seek to adopt the child.