BREAKING WITH TRADITION IN TEXAS CUSTODY AND VISITATION MATTERS

When a traditional family breaks apart in a divorce, there are often difficult legal and emotional issues for parents to deal with, including complex child custody and visitation matters.

When a same-sex couple has children together, the break-up can be even more complicated because Texas doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. That can mean a non-biological parent has to fight to even be recognized as someone with standing to ask for visitation rights.

That’s apparently the case with a Dallas woman who had a baby with her partner. Not long after the baby was born, however, their seven-year relationship came to an end.

The non-biological parent found that her failure to take certain legal steps had made her request to visit the baby boy much more difficult.

She said the most important step she, and others in her situation, can take is to carry out a second-parent adoption of the baby.

She noted there are other steps members of the LGBT community can take before the baby’s birth to help establish their standing, however.

While adoption makes the strongest legal statement possible in a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, a joint managing conservatorship also establishes a legal relationship that Texas courts recognize.

A joint managing conservatorship establishes the parental rights and duties of the two parents, though one of the two parents might have exclusive rights to make certain decisions.

In the absence of adoption or a joint managing conservatorship, a non-biological parent can also take other steps to establish their standing, including getting documents drawn up for medical powers of attorney and wills. They can also use joint mortgages and leases and bank accounts to help establish their legal relationship to the biological parent and the child.

The various legal options and avenues should be discussed with an experienced family law attorney.