Parental Rights and Grandparent Rights
In many situations, grandparent rights can be an issue if a parent or parents don’t allow their children to see or have a relationship with their grandparents. Whether it’s through a divorce, separation, or other issues, a grandparent’s right to see their grandchildren can often be taken away. In the case of a divorce that is not amicable, one parent may try to block a grandparent from seeing the minor child. For many grandparents, this is painful and often, heart-breaking.
If a grandparent is denied visitation to their grandchildren, they may seek legal aid to get some type of access. We’re going to take a look at the visitation rights of grandparents in Texas and whether a family court and legal aid can help them see their grandchildren.
Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights in Texas?
The short answer here is yes. Under Texas Law, grandparents can request to have more time with their grandchildren if they believe the status quo is not enough. This may happen when the pre-existing relationship between grandparent and grandchild is disrupted due to legal separation or divorce, or when parents are divorced or separated before the grandparents have an opportunity to build a relationship with their grandchild. In some instances, if the child is born out of wedlock, then the custodial parent may inhibit your ability to build a relationship with your grandchildren. But, whatever the reason, the courts need to agree, and the visitation needs to be in the best interest of the minor child.
When you’re talking about grandparents’ rights, it’s generally relating to a grandchild’s custody and visitation privileges. In Texas, a grandparent can go to the court and ask for visitation rights if they feel as though they are being denied.
A court may award visitation or custody of their grandchildren if it’s in the child’s best interest and one of the following criteria applies:
- The biological parents are divorced
- The parent neglected or abused the child
- The parent has died, been found incompetent, or is in jail
- A court order terminated the parent-child relationship
- The minor child has lived with the grandparent for at least 6 months
When you’re talking about grandparent rights it’s important to note that the visitation statutes in Texas do not give a grandparent the absolute right to visitation. A grandparent can petition for visitation rights or to modify an existing order. Also, if someone other than the child’s stepparent has adopted the child, the grandparent may not request visitation. It is up to the adoptive parents to decide if grandparents can visit with their grandchildren.
What are grandparent’s rights in Texas to visitation, access, or possession of grandchildren?
In Texas, the state limits the circumstances where a grandparent should be allowed more visitation to their grandchildren or custody. This is because the state presumes that the parent or parents should have the right to decide who has access to their children.
However, this can change if it’s in the best interest of the child to have more time with their grandparent and at least one of the criteria listed above is met.
When can a grandparent obtain custody of a grandchild?
A grandparent having custody of a grandchild is not uncommon in the United States. There are many instances of grandparents raising grandchildren. A Pew Research Center study showed that over 7 million children under the age of 18 live with at least one grandparent. The study also discovered that about 37 percent of those children get most of their care from a grandparent.
But, in Texas, a grandparent cannot just assume custody of a grandchild. Certain criteria must be met. A grandparent can only obtain custody of a grandchild if:
- The grandchild’s current living situation raises jeopardizes the grandchild’s physical or emotional well-being.
- One or both parents have agreed to a change in custody
- A grandparent can seek custody by intervening in a custody action filed by the state or the parents. Grandparents can file their custody requests as part of an existing order and do not need to file an original suit.
Grandparents need to know that a parent’s right is primary when compared to grandparent rights. But, a parent’s actions can lead to their parental rights being terminated.
When should a grandparent seek custody or visitation of a grandchild?
Timing is everything. Since it is up to the grandparent to prove why they should be granted visitation or grandparent custody, they need to be aware of what’s going on in the child’s life that would warrant that action.
If a parent has been in jail or has been abusive, the time to act is now. When a child’s best interest is not being fulfilled by the parent, a court will be more likely to grant custody to a grandparent who can provide a stable and loving home. Waiting can not only hurt the child but may also impact the chances of a court granting a grandparent’s request.
Can a biological grandparent obtain visitation with an adopted child?
When a child has been adopted, a parent’s rights are terminated. Since grandparent rights come through a parent’s rights, a grandparent no longer has rights to the child once the child has been adopted.
But, if a step-parent adopts the child, a grandparent may be able to obtain visitation through the courts. But, they still have to prove that it’s in the grandchild’s best interests and doesn’t interfere with the step-parent’s relationship with the child.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to grandparent rights for visitation and custody in Texas, the child’s best interest is always going to be paramount. Other factors will come into play, but what’s best for the child is going to take priority. While a grandparent may feel as though they should have custody or be able to see their grandchildren more, a family court will ultimately make that decision. It is up to the grandparent to contact a reputable family law attorney who is familiar with child custody and visitation issues so that they can represent their case.
An experienced family law attorney can evaluate the information to determine if the grandparents may or may not have a case when seeking child custody and visitation. They’ll review family code, the cause behind the parent’s decision, the reasoning for the grandparents to seek visitation or custody, and the convincing evidence. From here, if there’s a chance the court may grant visitation with your grandchild then your attorney will walk through the next steps to protect visitation rights of grandparents.