38 year old male here, hoping you can lend a hand. Here is my story:
I became a setpfather at 23 when I married a 23 year old woman that had a 1yr old son. Last month, she and I divorced, and she told me I couldn’t keep spending time with “her” son. Now, neither one of us did anything wrong and there is no animosity between any of us, buy hearing her say that crushed me. Her son and I spend alot of time together and after 16 years, I feel like he is my son too, too and he even calls me dad. His real father never came into the picture and I would still consider myself this boy’s father, so why do you think my ex wife is doing this? CAN she legally do this??
I didn’t get a response as to which state you’re from, so I can’t really give any legal perspective here, but I’d say you’re right in feeling like your son is being taken away. I could see someone doing what your ex did if you only knew each other for a year or two, but after 15 years, I’d say you’re easily the only father he’s ever really had.
You say there was no animosity and no one did anything wrong, but there is something else there that is causing your ex to take this cause of action. Maybe an addiction problem, some sort of honesty/trust issue, or maybe she’s simply looking to strike an emotional chord if you suggested the divorce. I didn’t get a response when I asked for more information, so I can’t be more specific. If I get a response, I will happily give more guidance.
I’d meet with a legal professional that deals with children and divorce and determine your options. I hope it works out. Custody battles aren’t often easy, you’re in an even rougher spot and you have my sympathy.