Unfortunately, difficulties often arise when raising children. Whether the circumstances were avoidable or unforeseeable from the perspective of the parents, sometimes other family members feel the brunt of one or both parents’ issues with each other. One casualty of divorce is when a parent does not allow the child to see their grandparents as a result of discord at home.
Grandparents have a special role in families, perhaps second only to that of the parent-child relationship. When divorce occurs parents can genuinely feel hurt to the point where they feel the need to protect themselves and their children. When I speak with a potential client of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC and they have question about grandparents’ rights in Texas the conversation that we went into isn’t always an easy one to digest.
What are Grandparent Rights in Texas?
The state of Texas, like all other states, have specific laws that outline the extent to which grandparents have rights to visit with and have possession/access of their children. In today’s world where the nuclear family isn’t so nuclear anymore this isn’t surprising. What is surprising to many is how our state comes down on this issue. There are laws in the state that related to child custody and their grandparent(s) while others apply generally to adults of all sorts but do not necessarily exclude grandparents.
Texas has Strong Pro-Parent Rights
In Texas, our laws are strongly pro-parents’ rights. This means that even if grandparents do not approve of how mom and dad are handling the kids, it does not mean that they can file a lawsuit and interrupt the relationship between parents and their children. It is a presumption that parents are acting in the best interest of the children in basically all circumstances, absent issues of abuse, neglect and other extreme fact patterns.
Grandparents can Establish Rights in Certain Situations
Grandparents, simply put, are not presumed to have a right automatically to be able to have access and possession to their grandchildren. However, when circumstances arise that have the potential to have a detrimental effect on the family a court can step in. Circumstances sufficiently important to have a court enter the fray include the death of one or both parents, a parent going to jail, violence in the family, and the termination of a parents’ parental rights.
One case that I can write about from personal experience involves two grandparents and their grandchildren. This was a case that we recently helped to settle. The facts and circumstances are extremely unique and I think do a great job of illustrating the above points. Approximately two years ago our clients’ son was arrested on charges relating to a sex-crime. The son’s two children, both teenagers, were under the direct control and supervision of their mother. This would begin to be an issue for our clients as they found out that mom wasn’t too keen on them having any time to spend with the grandkids. What made the situation even worse was that their son wanted nothing to do with his parents after he was sent to prison. Our grandparents had no advocates for them to be able to see and spend time with their grandchildren.
After months of not even having the ability to speak to their grandkids on the phone or in person, a phone call was placed to our office for a consultation with these two grandparents. After allowing them an opportunity to air their grievances with the kids’ mother and life in general it was time for our office to be able to speak to the grandparents about their rights vis a vis their grandchildren. When I went through the basics of grandparents rights’ in Texas it was unsurprising that they were not feeling too great about their chances to get more time with their grandchildren. I let them know that they are not completely shut out as far as rights and that if they felt strongly about the situation they ought to consider filing a lawsuit to see where the process leads them.
Fortunately for them, they decided to heed this advice and they began the somewhat winding process of having their case filed in the courts here in Harris County. We were able to schedule mediation with the mother’s attorney and have all parties present in a setting where a settlement would be most likely. Our office has written blog posts previously on mediation and this case offered another example of why our office strongly endorses this process. While grandma and grandpa did not get everything they wanted at the outset of the case, they were able to work with the mother of their grandchildren in order to arrive at a visitation schedule that allows for them to re-build a relationship with the children.
What can Grandparents do to Help their Case?
What helped the grandparents’ case? For starters, our office encouraged them to diligently take notes on their thoughts and concerns about the case. This allowed our office to answer their questions quickly and readily. Secondly, we let these clients know early on that if they could present a strong case of having a close relationship with the children then that could really go a long way towards showing the kids’ mother that going to court could result in the grandparents presenting some convincing evidence as to why they need to be awarded time with their grandkids due to a long lasting bond.
While it is impossible for the attorneys at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC or any other attorney for that matter to guarantee a client any particular result in their case, it is possible through diligent communication and preparation to avoid a protracted and costly case and arrive at a successful settlement fairly early in the life of a case. Grandparents certainly have a tough road to hoe when it comes to negotiating time with their grandchildren- especially if one or both parents are against the idea for one reason or another.
To learn more about your rights as a grandparent, or for more information on any family law issue, please contact the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. Our office has attorneys and staff members ready and standing by to meet you and to learn more about your particular legal situation.
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