Grandparents Rights in Texas
Grandparents are often an integral part of the family unit. In Texas alone, more than 633,650 children under age 18 live with their grandparents. It's not uncommon for grandparents to take a more active role when the family unit is disrupted by death, divorce, abuse, job loss, or incarceration. This article explores grandparents rights in Texas, specifically as it pertains to custody and visitation.
What Rights to Grandparents Have in Texas
Grandparent rights generally refer to court-ordered visitation or custody of a grandchild. While there is no federal law giving grandparent rights, every state has passed some type of grandparent access or visitation law for specific, and usually extreme, circumstances. In Texas, these rights are contained in Chapter 153 of the Texas Family Code.
Parental Rights vs. Grandparents Rights
To understand grandparents’ rights, it helps to first parental rights. Generally, parental rights take precedence.
Put us on your side to help secure grandparents' rights for custody or visitation.
Supreme Court on Grandparents Rights
In 2000, the United States Supreme Court decided Troxel v. Granville – a landmark case that limited grandparent rights. Troxel held that there is a presumption a “fit” parent acts in the best interest of the child and should have the power say who can and cannot see their child – grandparents and extended family included. Troxel held that judges must consider a parent’s reasons for preventing grandparent visitation, rather than presuming grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interest.
Texas Legislature in Light of Supreme Court Decision on Grandparents Rights
After Troxell, many states, including Texas, amended their statutes regarding grandparents’ rights. And while grandparents do not have a constitutional right to see their grandchildren, a grandparent may be able to get a court order granting possession and access to grandchildren in certain circumstances - but it's not easy.
Grandparents may secure visitation rights over the objection of the parents as long as all three of the following conditions are met:
- At least one biological or adoptive parent of the child has not had the parent’s parental rights terminated;
- The grandparent requesting possession of or access to the child overcomes the presumption that a parent acts in the best interest of the parent’s child by proving that denial of possession of or access to
the child would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional well-being; and
- The grandparent that is requesting possession of or access to the child is a parent of a parent of the child and that parent of the child:
- Has been incarcerated during the three-month period preceding the filing of the petition;
- Has been deemed by a court to be incompetent;
- Is dead; or
- Does not have actual or court-order possession or access to the child.
How Do Grand Parents Get Court-Ordered Visitation?
For a grandparent to be able to receive court-ordered visitation, they must be able to affirmatively show that depriving the child of the visitation will significantly impair the child’s emotional or physical well-being. They must be able to meet all the conditions outlined above including the second condition with addresses the presumption established by the Supreme Court. It's worth noting that the standard is not simply showing there would be harm if the grandparents did not receive visitation. Instead, there must be a showing there would be significant impairment.
As with visitation, grandparents don’t have an automatic right to custody of their grandchildren. However, they can seek custody of their grandchildren in certain situations. To do this, grandparents must petition the court for custody by
filing a lawsuit.
Before a lawsuit is filed, at least one of the requirements must be met:
- The parents agree the child should live with his or her grandparents.
- The grandparents can prove the child is suffering abuse or neglect by the parents.
- The grandparent is already the child’s guardian by order of the court.
- The child has been living with the grandparents for six months.
The court will always consider what's in the best interest of the child. Getting custody of a child is not an easy task – especially since the Supreme Court recognizes parents have a constitutional right to care and control their children.
Are You Seeking Grandparent Rights in Texas?
Grandparents who are fighting for visitation or custody of a grandchild need an experienced, trustworthy Fort Worth family lawyer that will navigate them through this complex area of law. We can help. Call us today at (817) 900-3220 for a free consultation. You may also contact us online: