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Can a stepfather have paternal rights?

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One of the most surprising aspects of the Texas Family Code, as it relates to father's rights, deals with stepdads. It's actually possible for a stepdad to gain parental rights to a child if he meets several requirements. But even with that provision in Texas law, it can take a knowledgeable attorney to help secure those rights.


The Texas Family Code states that if the person in question cohabitates with the mother and the child for the first two years of the child's life--regardless of marital status--he can claim rights as the stepfather. The provision specifies that those rights apply when "during the first two years of the child's life, he continuously resided in the household in which the child resided and he represented to others that the child was his own."


These rights can even include serving as the child's primary parent if the child's biological mother abandons her duties.


We recently worked on a case where this very thing happened. We represented a man who had a legal claim to be the stepfather, took an unexpected twist, in that the mother's parents stepped in wanting to adopt the child. Once that happened, our client decided to step out of the picture and let the grandparents proceed with the adoption.


One of the most important things to do if you're building the case is to provide proof for that key provision of the Texas Family Code. That includes documentation that proves cohabitation status, like yours and the mother's name appearing on a mortgage or lease, and utility bills with your name and the mother's name on them (or just your name, if you have other documentation showing you and the mother live at the same address).


It also can involve people who might know you in your role as a stepfather, like a day care employee or someone in the child's pediatrician's office, who are willing to testify in a case. While the law is on your side, your attorney does need to prove that you qualify as a stepfather to that child under the law's requirements.


Though this is still not a common situation, we are seeing more stepfathers come into the Law Office of Lisa Vance than we have in years past to investigate their rights. We would be happy to schedule a meeting with you to see how we can build your case, if this part of the family code applies to you, or what other options you might have if it doesn't.


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