Grandparents seeking custody or visitation face an uphill battle

In recent years, more and more grandparents are taking an active role in their grandchildren’s lives. U.S. Census Bureau records show that, in 2011, one out of every 10 children lived with at least one grandparent. Over half of those grandparents – roughly 3 million – provided primary care for their grandchild.

For some families, a disagreement, move, new job or other issue has caused a situation where the grandparent is no longer given access to his or her grandchild. In certain situations, in may be possible for the grandparent to petition a Texas family court for custody or visitation time with grandchildren.

Even though grandparents may have the right in some circumstances to request quality time with their grandchildren, there is no guarantee that their request will be granted. The parent-child relationship is given the utmost deference and, absent a significant amount of persuasive evidence, Texas family courts are wary of interfering in that relationship. The courts will generally respect how a parent chooses to raise his or her child, including where the child shall live, where he or she will attend school and which people are granted access to the child.

That being said, the state does recognize that, in some situations, it may be beneficial that a child be allowed to spend quality time with other people – namely grandparents -even against a parent’s wishes. Still, grandparents have an uphill battle. They must provide evidence showing three key facts: they have standing to bring a claim for custody, they have rebutted the legal presumption that parents are deemed fit to raise their children, and that the child will be significantly harmed if he or she isn’t allowed to see the grandparents.

Not only do grandparents have their work cut out for them to merely bring a claim for access to their grandchildren, they must prove each factor of their case with a “preponderance of the evidence.” This means that they must meet a very high, strict legal threshold in order to prevail. With so much at stake, and such a high burden of proof to meet, it is easy to understand why many grandparents choose to enter the judicial system with an experienced Texas family law attorney by their side.

Source: Texas Lawyer, “Overcoming Parental Presumption for Grandparent Custody,” Angela Laughlin Brown, August 19, 2014.