Do Grandparents Have Rights? Texas Visitation Law Basics

A recent study performed by the Pew Research Center shows that more American grandparents are taking care of their grandchildren than ever before. Nearly eight million children under the age of 18 are living with at least one grandparent, and more than three million children are receiving the majority of their care not from a parent, but from a grandparent. In those homes, many of which are in Texas, the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren is fostered by proximity; there is a much better chance that the two will have a meaningful connection when they get to spend so much time together.

In other homes, though, grandparents may not get the quality time they desire with their grandchildren. Most times, a simple conversation between a grandparent and their grandchild’s parent will yield a positive visitation arrangement. If that isn’t the case, though, the Texas legislature has given grandparents the right to request more time with their grandchildren.

The grandparent visitation provision is set forth in Sections 153.432-153.434 of Subchapter H of Chapter 153 of the Texas Family Code. That statute establishes the circumstances under which a grandparent can petition a Texas Family Court to order visitation time with a grandchild. It is important to note that the statute doesn’t make a guarantee that a grandparent will actually receive time with his or her grandchild; it merely gives grandparents the right to make the request.

There are only certain circumstances in which courts will order that grandparents be given visitation time with their grandchildren, because the law presumes that parents are capable of making their own decisions about who has access to their child. These are:

  • The parents have divorced
  • One or both parents has abused the child
  • One or both parents has been incarcerated, passed away or been deemed legally incompetent
  • One or both parents have had their parental rights legally terminated
  • The grandchild has lived with the grandparent for at least six months (if the grandchild has left the grandparent’s home, a petition for access must be filed within 90 days of the child’s relocation)

The statute also allows grandparents to seek custody (in Texas, this is known as “conservatorship”) of their grandchildren, but the grandparent has the burden of proving that it is in the child’s best interest to not remain with his or her parents. The presumption that parents are capable of raising their children is a very difficult one to overcome.

Another important note about the statute is that grandparents do not have the right to seek visitation with a child who has been adopted by someone other than a stepparent, even if the child’s adoptive parent is a relative.

Though the Texas State Attorney General’s Office does offer support for grandparents interested in seeking custody, the process of filing papers with the court may seem overwhelming to someone with no prior experience with the judicial system. Luckily, there is help out there. If you need the court’s assistance to enjoy a quality relationship with your grandchildren, contact a Texas family law attorney.