A recent study by the Pew Research Center revealed that more American grandparents are taking care of their grandchildren than ever before. Today, over 7 million children under the age of 18 live with at least one grandparent, which is up from the 5.8 million recorded by the US Census Bureau in 2000. In addition, Pew Research says about 37 percent of those children receive the majority of their care from a grandparent.
Unfortunately, some grandparents feel they don’t get to see their grandchildren as much as they would like—this is often the case when the child’s parents don’t live together. A simple conversation between the grandparent and their grandchild’s parent may be all it takes to yield an acceptable visitation arrangement—but this isn’t always the situation.
When that isn’t the case, do grandparents have legal rights to see their grandchildren? Does Texas support grandparents’ visitation rights? It depends. Grandparents may have the right to request more time with their grandchildren under Texas law but visitation or custody of grandchildren isn’t available to every grandparent.
Grandparents’ rights in Texas—or grandparents law—is laid out in Sections 153.432-153.434 of Subchapter H of Chapter 153 of the Texas Family Code.
The statutes in this section explain when a grandparent has the right to petition the court for access and visitation time with a grandchild, as well as child custody (known as conservatorship in Texas). These statutes don’t guarantee that a grandparent will receive custody or visitation; they merely give grandparents the right to make the request.
In Texas, the state limits the circumstances under which grandparents can request more visitation rights regarding grandchildren. That’s because the state presumes that parents should have the right to decide who has access to their children in most cases.
Texas grandparents may request and may be granted visitation or possession (custody) of their grandchildren when:
As noted, the Texas Family Code does allow grandparents to seek visitation and custody (conservatorship) of their grandchildren, but the burden is on the grandparents to prove that it is in the child’s best interest. In all honesty, this burden of proof is a very strict standard and difficult to overcome.
The court requires that grandparents provide physical evidence proving the child is endangered at the time of filing. If the parent is incarcerated, abuses drugs or alcohol, is abusive to the child or endangers them in some other way—and the grandparent can provide evidence of this—they may have a case.
Again, timing is critical. If you believe your grandchild’s physical health or emotional wellbeing is in danger, call an attorney right away. Waiting could compromise your ability to gain access to or possession of the child.
Texas child custody and grandparent’s rights laws also clarify when grandparents do NOT have the right to seek possession of or visitation with a grandchild. For example, a grandparent does not have the right to request visitation with a grandchild if the child’s biological parents have had their parental rights terminated or relinquished their parental rights.
Though the Texas State Attorney General’s Office does offer support for grandparents interested in seeking custody, the Sisemore Law Firm in Fort Worth strongly encourages grandparents to seek advice from a lawyer for grandparent’s rights in Texas.
An experienced grandparents’ rights attorney in Texas can make sure that relevant paperwork is filed appropriately and on time. He or she can also help grandparents compile and present the evidence the court needs to determine that possession of or visitation with the grandchild is in the best interest of the child.
If you have questions about grandparent’s rights in Texas, contact the Sisemore Law Firm in Fort Worth for legal advice. Our compassionate family law attorneys have extensive experience representing grandparents in Texas and are here to help.