July 24, 2015
Grandparents’ Rights – How to Preserve Your Rights as a Grandparent
The bond between a grandchild and grandparent is special. Grandparents can play a powerful role in the life of a child and the relationship that develops between grandparents and grandchildren and can last a lifetime. These relationships are very important and should be encouraged and preserved so long as they are healthy and beneficial to the child.
In Texas, parents generally have the right to decide who can visit and spend time with their children. In most instances, parents and grandparents are able to work together and agree upon when and where grandparent visits can take place. However, life does not always go smoothly. Situations can arise, such as a conflict between the parents and a grandparent, or a parental separation, divorce or death, which can threaten a grandparent’s right to see his or her grandchildren. When unfortunate events like these occur, it is important for individuals to know how they can best protect their rights as a grandparent.
In Texas, grandparents do not have any automatic rights to visit their grandchildren. If the parents refuse to allow visits or contact with a grandparent, the grandparent will have to file a legal petition seeking a court order for visitation. Under Section 153.433 of the Texas Family Code, a court can order visitation privileges to a grandparent where the visitation is in the best interest of the child and the following circumstances exist:
- At least one parent (biological or adoptive) of the child has not had his or her parental rights terminated;
- The grandparent can prove that the grandchild’s physical health or emotional well-being will be considerably harmed if the grandparent is denied visitation; and
- The grandparent is the parent of a parent of the grandchild and that parent has been incarcerated, found incompetent by a court, died or does not have actual or court-ordered custody or access rights to the child.
It is important to be aware that the court’s primary consideration will always be what is in the best interests of the child when making a determination. Also, if the grandchild has been adopted by a person outside of the family, other than the child’s stepparent, the grandparent will not be permitted to file for visitation rights.
Unfortunately, there are times when the safety, health or well-being of a child is put at risk by living with his or her parent(s). In these situations, a grandparent may need to seek custody in order to protect his or her grandchild. If the grandparent believes that a child may be harmed and custody is in the best interest of his or her grandchild, the grandparent may file a custody suit.
In Texas, gaining custody of a grandchild can be a difficult legal battle. A strong “parental presumption” exists that it is best for a child to live with his or her parents and they generally have the right to raise their children as they see fit. The state will only intervene in extreme circumstances, such as where the physical or emotional welfare of the child is at stake.
If you have been denied the right to visit with your grandchildren or are considering seeking custody of a grandchild, you should discuss your situation with a Texas family lawyer. An attorney skilled in handling family law matters can help guide you through the complex laws governing grandparent custody and visitation rights in Texas.