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Stepparent Rights in Texas Custody Cases

| Chris Schmiedeke |

Key Takeaways:

  • Stepparents do not get automatic visitation rights, but they can petition to receive them.
  • Courts will rule based on the best interests of the child above all else.
  • Stepparents must live with the stepchild for at least six months before filing for custody or visitation.
  • It is not likely that the court will grant a stepparent child custody over the biological parent, but it is technically possible.

The relationship between a stepparent and a stepchild can be just as important and fulfilling as the biological parent-child relationship. While stepparents do have certain rights when it comes to seeing their stepchildren and grandchildren, the state of Texas limits these rights of blended families significantly.

In some cases, stepparent rights may only be available in certain situations. Every family is unique, and it is important to recognize exactly what it takes for a stepparent to maintain their legal rights regarding their stepchildren. At the Law Office of Chris Schmiedeke P.C., you can benefit from representation from an experienced family law attorney. Take a look at some of the most important factors to keep in mind regarding stepparent rights.

Do Stepparents Have Visitation Rights in Texas After a Divorce?

A dad holding his daughter on his shoulders


When stepparents get divorced from a biological parent, they have no automatic visitation rights to their stepchildren in the state of Texas, but the law still considers them to be interested third parties. That means that while visitation is not automatic, stepparents can petition the family law court for visitation rights. If any of the biological parents object to this petition, however, a stepparent is not very likely to be granted visitation by a judge.

How Likely is It for a Stepparent to Be Granted Visitation Rights by the Dallas County Court?

It is not likely that the court will grant visitation rights to a stepparent, but it is important to keep in mind that the Texas family court operates on what the best interests of the child are. Because of this, certain extenuating circumstances may motivate the court to grant stepparent visitation. Some factors that the court will consider are as follows.

  • How close the stepchild and stepparent are
  • How long the stepparent has been a part of the stepchild’s life
  • How involved the stepparent is in the stepchild’s life
  • How much the stepparent provides financial support
  • How much the stepchild would suffer if they were not permitted to see their stepparent

Understanding Texas Family Code 102.003 9 & 11 for Stepparents and Stepgrandparents

In the past, stepparent rights in Texas law were primarily governed by Texas Family Code 102.003(11). This portion of the law states that a stepparent can file suit for custody or visitation when their biological parent or managing conservator is deceased. Additionally, the stepparent must have lived with the child for at least six months. Keep in mind that this only applies if the child’s biological parent is dead. If they are still living, stepparents have no rights under this law.

More recently, Texas added a stipulation under the Texas Family Code 102.003(9) that gives stepparents another avenue for pursuing visitation. Most importantly, this law does not depend on the biological parent or conservatorship controller being deceased. Instead, it grants the right to file for custody or visitation based on who has actually taken care of and possessed the child for at least six months. Therefore, if a stepparent was living with their stepchild and taking care of them for at least six months, they can file for custody or visitation.

As a disclaimer, some previous cases have interpreted this stipulation to require stepparents to have sole control and custody of the child, which is a difficult standard to meet since most stepparents parent alongside one biological parent. The Texas Supreme Court, however, has since made it clear that this statute does not require the stepparent to have sole control over the child.

Under What Terms Can a Stepparent Have Custody Rights in Texas?

Stepparents can be awarded custody rights over their stepchildren by court order under certain circumstances. Keep in mind that Texas law prohibits children from having more than two legal parents, so one of the biological parents must terminate parental rights. Here are a few conditions under which courts may grant custody to stepparents.

  • Biological parents are unable to provide for and take care of the child in question. This can be due to financial hardship, desertion, or death.
  • The court considers the biological parents to be unfit for custody.
  • The court considers stepparent custody to be in the child’s best interest.

What Rights Does Legal Custody Include?

Legal custody grants custody holders several parenting rights over the child. These rights include the following.

  • The authority to decide where the child lives
  • The authority to make healthcare decisions for the child’s life
  • The authority to determine where they go to school
  • The authority to make financial decisions on their behalf
  • The authority to approve or deny their military service applications
  • The authority to apply for and maintain their travel documents
  • The ability to receive child support payments
  • The authority to determine how legal issues are handled

Why Clients Partner With the Law Offices of Chris Schmiedeke, P.C.

At the Law Offices of Chris Schmiedeke P.C., we understand that every family is different. We care about offering custom solutions for our clients that work best for their unique family situations. Our communicative approach to the attorney-client relationship keeps you in the loop on updates as we work towards your goals.

Take a look at what some of our previous clients have to say.


“The team was amazing. They all were very helpful, patient, and understanding of my situation. Even the front desk was so helpful and informative when I had questions. They got everything done as smoothly and quickly as could be. I would definitely use them if needed in the future. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.” — Patrick S.

“Our experience with Chris was nothing short of wonderful. The great service and attentiveness began with Shelly and did not disappoint by the time we got to Chris. My husband and I left our meeting happy, excited, and extremely confident that our needs would be met.” — Alandria S.

“Chris and his staff are true professionals. From the first contact, They made sure my case was handled with the utmost respect and care and resolved in a timely manner. I highly recommend this law firm. It is very professional and organized and kept me updated throughout the entire process of my case using text messages, email, and phone calls daily and weekly. If you need a law firm that is going to put you first, this is the law firm. It doesn’t get any better than this!” — Anthony M.

Frequently Asked Questions About Stepparent Rights in Texas Custody Cases

Woman pointing upwards


Where Should I File My Stepparent Adoption Case?

You should file your stepparent adoption case in either the county where the child lives or the county where you live. This can be at the district court or the statutory county court that has jurisdiction over family law cases.

What are the Legal Requirements for Stepparent Adoption in Texas?


For the most part, there are three general legal requirements in place for stepparent adoption in the state of Texas.

  • The stepparent must be married to the child’s legal parent and live with the child for at least six months while providing care and support.
  • The stepparent must get permission from both of the legal parents of the stepchild, with some exceptions (like one of the biological parents being deceased, missing, or incarcerated).
  • If the child is at least 12 years of age, a stepparent adoption also requires the consent of the stepchild unless the court deems adoption is in the child’s best interest despite the child’s wishes.

What Will Disqualify Me From Adopting My Stepchild in Texas?

Certain factors could disqualify you from the adoption process, including having a criminal history or a history of child abuse and neglect. A history of drug and alcohol abuse could also disqualify you from adoption.

Does My Stepchild Have to Testify in Court to Be Adopted?

If your stepchild is under the age of 12, they do not have to testify in court to be adopted, though they may still be asked to give testimony in certain circumstances. If they are older than 12, they will need to consent to the adoption, but this does not necessarily mean they have to do so in open court.

Stepparent Rights in Texas Are Complex. Speak With a Seasoned Family Lawyer in Dallas.

Navigating stepparent rights in Dallas, Fort Worth, and beyond can be difficult, but you do not have to do it alone. The Law Office of Chris Schmiedeke P.C. offers custom services, legal advice, and experience from a child custody attorney to help you pursue your family goals. Get started today by calling us at 214-989-7375 or by filling out our online contact form to speak with a Texas family law attorney.

Chris Schmiedeke


I was born in Dallas and spent the majority of my life here. I moved to Denver in the middle of the first grade and moved back to Plano in the middle of the eleventh grade. I graduated from Plano Senior High in 1984 and then attended Richland College and the University of North Texas where a received a Bachelor of Business Administration. From there I attended the Texas Tech University School of Law and was licensed to practice law in May of 1993. 

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