Friday, December 2, 2011

Can I Seek Custody of Someone Else’s Children?

Blended or complex households may involve raising step-children or even the children of friends and other non-relatives, often for a variety of practical economic and social reasons. But typically a non-relative does not have the legal right (called “standing”) to seek a court order for custody or to be appointed as that child’s conservator.

However, the Texas Legislature has recognized that, under certain circumstances, a non-relative can have enough involvement in a child’s life to be entitled to seek rights typically reserved for that child’s parents or other relatives.

Specifically, a person who has “actual care, control and possession” of a child for at least six months can file a petition to seek to be appointed as that child’s conservator, even when the child is not related by blood or marriage. The petition must be filed within 90 days of the child leaving the applicant’s actual care, control and possession. In this situation, “actual control” means that the applicant had power or authority to guide and manage the child.

So, for example, if the child of a friend has lived with you during the past year while attending school with your own children, and that friend is unable to return to care for the child (due to death, illness, financial misfortune, or other circumstances), you would have standing to file a petition asking the court to appoint you as the child’s managing conservator. Often, this arrangement can be temporary and does not involve terminating the rights of the child’s actual parents, but provides you with legal rights and authority (as described in the court’s order) related to the child’s care, possession and upbringing.

Article by Cindy Veidt.