The Wife, Husband, and Ex-Husband Nuclear Family?

One of the great myths of modern America is that divorce is rampantly common with roughly 50% of marriages ending in divorce. That stat is wrong — as of 2018, as Time Magazine notes, the number is closer to 39%. And that includes second and third marriages, which rarely reach the “until death do us part” part; per Forbes, “67% of second marriages end, and 73% of third marriages are dissolved” via divorce.

But when couples do divorce, usually, they stop living together. (Usually — there are more than a handful of divorced couples that stay under the same roof either for their kids or for economic reasons.) And when one of the two remarries? The other definitely has to find somewhere else to live.

Unless he was the high school sweetheart of Kris Armstrong of Texas.

In 2006, 21-year-old Kris married Brandon Smith, the boy she had been dating throughout most of high school and beyond. But two years into their marriage, tragedy struck. Brandon was in a car accident and barely survived — and that was only the beginning. As Kris told CBS News, after the accident, Brandon “was in a coma, and we didn’t know when — or if — he would wake up and what would happen.” It took two months before Brandon regained consciousness, but he wasn’t the same person. As CBS reported, he “had post-traumatic amnesia and now needed constant care” with no hopes of recovery.

For the next few years, Kris took care of Brandon, putting her life on hold as a result. She shifted her career to become a speech pathologist, in hopes of better understanding Brandon’s needs. He needed around-the-clock care, so she moved him into a nursing home nearby, but visited him nearly every day and remained his primary caretaker. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the life she had in mind when she and Brandon got married. As she told the Today Show, “she dreamed of having children[, but w]hen it became clear that Smith would never recover, Armstrong made the ‘heart-wrenching’ decision to file for divorce.”

But Kris didn’t abandon Brandon. She adopted him.

Around the time she started divorce proceedings, Kris also filed the necessary paperwork to make herself Brandon’s legal guardian. The judge in the case was skeptical, asking her (per Kris’ conversation with the Today Show) “What happens when you have a family of your own? Will you still be able to take care of this man?” And Kris responded, simply “Yeah, I’m not going anywhere.” She was given guardianship over Brandon, and in 2015, proved that she’d keep true to her word.

That year, Kris married James Robinson, a man she met a year earlier. The couple met on an online dating app Kris made it clear at the start that she and Brandon were a package deal, and James — who had a son from a previous relationship — didn’t mind, and appreciated how Kris’ commitment to her ex-husband underscored her kindness. Per the New York Post, “Kris met James’ son on their first in-person [meeting] — and James met Brandon the next day. Kris still remembers coming out of the bathroom and seeing James and Brandon embracing.”

Kris and James Armstrong have been married since, and have two daughters together. Kris sees Brandon as her brother, as she said on her TikTok account, James treats him as a friend, and the children see Brandon as an uncle. Together, they’re a unique, but loving, family. As Kris told People Magazine, “Every year when she submits her guardianship paperwork to the judge, she includes a photo of her and her husband with their kids and Brandon. She says, ‘I still love him, and he’s very much a part of our family.’”

Bonus fact: From 1990 to 1991, Sherman Smith was the running backs coach at Miami University, and he took notice of a high school prospect named Deland McCullough. Over the next year or so, Smith took McCullough under his wing, mentoring the teenager and helping him become the best football player he could be. When it became time for McCullough to choose a college, he ended up going to Miami University.

Four years later, he’d graduate and ultimately play football in the NFL and earn a Super Bowl ring. After he retired and started a family, though, he realized he needed to know his family’s medical history — it was important for his kids’ lives — and he didn’t know much, because he had been adopted. In 2017, he tracked down his biological mother and ultimately, his biological father as well. And when it came to that father, McCullough didn’t have to look far. As ESPN reported, it turns out that Smith — unbeknownst to either of them — was McCullough’s biological dad.

From the Archives: The Land of the Adopted Son: Why Japan has such a high adoption rate (and why babies aren’t a large part of the equation).