What Does “Grandparents Rights” Actually Mean?
Many people are under some misconceptions about grandparents’ rights and what that term actually entails. Each state establishes different rights for grandparents. The Texas laws covering rights for grandparents are found in the Texas Family Code. These statutes permit grandparents to petition the court for visitation with grandchildren, guardianship of their grandchildren, also known as conservatorship in Texas, or custody of their grandchildren.
It’s understandable for grandparents to believe they have the right to visit their grandchildren when they wish. Unfortunately, the right of non-custodial or non-conservator grandparents to see their grandchildren isn’t guaranteed. The Texas Family Code allows grandparents to ask courts for visitation, but a judge can say no.
The laws presume that the child’s parents should have the final say in which people have access to their children. If both parents are in your grandchild’s life and aren’t deemed “unfit parents” by the courts, then it’s rare that a judge will overrule the parent’s decisions about how often you, the grandparent, visit your grandchild.
How Can a Grandparent Get Access to Their Grandchild?
Note that Texas refers to “physical custody” as “possession” of the child and “visitation” as “access to” the child. Grandparents in Texas do not automatically have access rights to their grandchildren. They can petition a judge for visitation of the grandchild in a few situations:
- The grandparent (petitioner) can present enough evidence to the family law judge that denying the grandparent access to the child is not in the child’s best interests. This may apply if the grandparent has a consistent, good relationship with the child.
- The parents divorced.
- The grandparent can prove that the child is being neglected or abused.
In some situations, a grandparent may petition for access to the child if their own child (that child’s parent):
- Is incarcerated for at least three months prior to the filing date of the visitation petition
- Is found by a Texas court to be incompetent (and therefore unfit to care for the child)
- Has no access to or possession of the child
In these situations, the parent who isn’t the child of the petitioning grandparent may not offer access. As a grandparent with a relationship with the child, you may understandably be upset and wish to see your grandchild. Texas laws take this into consideration, and so you may petition a court for access.
However, simply showing up in court and requesting an access schedule with your grandchild may have a different outcome than you wish. You’ll still need to submit the correct paperwork and evidence supporting your request, and the laws can get confusing. A Dallas grandparent’s rights lawyer can help you file the appropriate petition, gather evidence for your request, and argue your case in front of a Dallas family law judge.
Do Grandparents Have Custody Rights in Texas?
If your grandchild’s parents aren’t in their life or aren’t doing a good job caring for your grandchildren, you may be wondering when it’s time for you to step in. If you need to know how to get custody of a grandchild in Texas, the answer is that you must have those rights granted by the courts.
What Are the Reasons Grandparents Can Get Custody in Texas?
There are some family situations in which court-ordered access for a grandparent may not be enough. Perhaps something happened to both parents, and you want to raise your grandchildren with physical and/ or legal possession of them. The Texas Family Code contains provisions for this, too.
Some of the reasons grandparents can file for custody of grandchild include:
- Both parents die or become incapacitated. If the parents didn’t leave a will or other legal document establishing a guardian for their children, then a grandparent could petition the court for possession. Assigning custody to a grandparent on the death of the child’s parent isn’t automatic, though. You will probably need a lawyer to help you prepare a case for legal possession. Texas judges act in the best interest of the child. So, you must demonstrate that you will provide the best environment for the child.
- One or both parents is an unfit parent. In this situation, you may have to petition the court to terminate parental rights and establish that your grandchild isn’t safe in that home. Perhaps the parents cannot provide basic needs for the child or are neglecting them. Or, if one or both parents are substance abusers, then the courts may terminate their rights. Proving that a child’s parent is an unfit parent can be challenging, and courts may require a substantial amount of evidence, like:
- Medical records
- Police reports
- Documentation of abuse
- Documentation of a parent’s addiction
- Witness testimony about the child’s living conditions
- Photos or videos of the unsafe home
- You and your lawyer must present your case as to why the parent’s rights should be terminated before a judge. Then, you’ll also have to prove that you are a stable and safe guardian for the child.
- Voluntary custody. If one or both parents realize they cannot care for the child, they may voluntarily give possession to the grandparents. This permits the grandparents to act as the child’s legal advocate, like registering them for school or taking them to the doctor and making medical decisions.
Should I Seek Legal Advice About Grandparents’ Rights for My Grandchildren?
Are you looking for a grandparent’s rights attorney in Dallas, Texas? Do you need advice about your legal options for securing visitation with or custody of your grandchildren? Contact the Balekian Hayes PLLC legal team today for a consultation.