If you and your spouse or former partner are splitting with children involved, it’s important to understand the child custody law in Texas. First, you need to know who is considered immediate family by law and how it applies to your child custody case.
What Legally Defines Immediate Family?
Immediate family refers to a person’s parents, siblings, spouse, child by blood, adoption or marriage, grandparents and grandchildren.
There are two ways to determine if someone is an immediate family member. The first is by blood, meaning they have the same lineage. The people who qualify for this determination are siblings, children or grandchildren that are related by blood. The second way to determine immediate family is by marriage. These include in-laws and stepchildren.
Are Grandparents Considered Immediate Family?
Grandparents can seek custody of the child if both parents are unfit to raise them. If one parent has died, grandparents have visitation rights to see the child. In some cases where the grandparent plays a major role in the child’s life, they may not have custody if at least one biological parent is deemed fit.
In cases where the child has lived with the grandparent for an extended period of time, grandparents have a stronger claim to hold custody. If you are a grandparent who is trying to gain custody of your grandchildren, your best option will be to consult with a family lawyer.
Are Stepparents Considered Immediate Family?
Stepparents and non-parents have limited legal rights with regards to child custody laws in Texas. However, if the stepparent has played a significant role in the child’s life and has been the child’s primary caretaker, there is a stronger claim to custody. For example, if they have assumed the rights and duties as a parent, such as education and medical care, then they will have a strong claim – but they will still have to argue against the biological parent’s case.
Inevitably with third-party, nonparent cases, the judge will choose a guardian that serves the child’s best interest. In order for this choice to be made, the judge will have to determine “fitness” in a custody hearing.
If you are struggling with child custody cases, call Bineham & Gillen to speak to a family law and divorce attorney today.