Grandparents in Texas: What Rights Do They Have In Regard to Visitation?

Grandparents in Texas: What Rights Do They Have In Regard to Visitation?

Grandparents in Texas often wonder about their legal standing when it comes to visiting their grandchildren. Texas law acknowledges the importance of these relationships and provides specific guidelines for grandparents seeking visitation rights. This concise overview delves into the key aspects of Texas visitation laws, helping grandparents understand their rights and the legal avenues available to maintain a meaningful connection with their grandchildren.

Visitation Rights for Grandparents in Texas: An Overview

Family structures have evolved significantly since World War II, moving away from the extensively discussed and written about “nuclear” family model. Nowadays, families often feature unmarried parents, single-parent homes, and extended families playing crucial roles in children’s lives. In our experience, many children grow up under the care of extended and step-families.

Given these changes, questioning grandparents’ rights to visit their grandchildren, who have been integral parts of their lives, is entirely justified. In Texas, parents possess specific rights and duties in their relationships with their children, rights that the state’s laws protect. But do grandparents enjoy the same rights and responsibilities? This question becomes increasingly relevant as family dynamics continue to shift.

What Rights Do Grandparents Have to Visitation With Their Grandchildrenin Texas?

Suppose that you are a grandparent who has been out of your grandchild’s life for years because either your child or your child’s spouse has not wanted you involved. This has got to be extremely painful to have to deal with. The laws in Texas give great deference to parents and assume that whatever decisions they make regarding your grandchild, they are doing so with the best interest of the child in mind. This means that absent evidence to the contrary that you can be denied visitation with your grandchild by a court.

The rationale for this is that the State of Texas does not have a good enough reason in most circumstances to intercede into the private life of a family to create orders regarding grandparent visitation. If your child’s parents are deciding for your grandchild, it is expected that there is a legitimate and warranted reason for doing so.

This is not to say that it is impossible to be given visitation rights if you are a grandparent. This is particularly true if you are a grandparent who previously played a significant role in your grandchild’s life, such as if you helped to raise the child or perhaps the child lived with you in your home.

This past year our office represented a set of grandparents who, through multiple cases, were able to win conservatorship rights to both of their grandchildren. Let’s discuss their story.

A Story in Two Parts: Grandparents Achieve Success in Family Law Cases

In 2017, a poignant case unfolded in our Houston office, involving two grandparents striving for legal rights over their grandchildren. Their son, incarcerated for a serious crime, had left his children in a precarious situation, with their mother facing similar legal challenges. This left the grandchildren in a vulnerable position, and their grandparents, who had been a stable presence in their lives, suddenly found themselves denied access.

Grandparents in Texas: What Rights Do They Have In Regard to Visitation?

The story of these grandparents highlights a critical aspect of family law in Texas: the concept of “standing” in Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) cases. To file such a case, one must demonstrate significant prior contact with the child, justifying legal intervention. Our attorneys formulated a strategy to emphasize the grandparents’ integral role in the children’s upbringing, leading to the filing of a petition for visitation rights.

Through mediation, a vital stage in most SAPCR cases, the grandparents initially secured visitation rights, including weekends and holiday time. However, the situation evolved when the children’s mother was incarcerated, prompting the grandparents to seek conservatorship – a more substantial legal role in the children’s lives.

Their perseverance paid off. Not only did they gain joint managing conservatorship, but they also won the right to determine the children’s primary residence, a significant victory. This case exemplifies the potential success in family law, blending skilled legal representation, patience, and a bit of fortune. While each case is unique, this story offers hope and guidance for grandparents in similar situations.

What Factors Would a Court Consider When Determining Whether or Not to Award Custody Rights to Grandparents?

Suppose for a moment that our clients and their grandchildren’s mother did not settle out of court, and the case had to be taken to trial. How would a judge approach the question of whether or not to award custody rights to a grandparent?

It is challenging to win custody rights to your grandchildren unless one of the parents voluntarily terminates their parental rights or the court determines either parent (or both) to be unfit. Past contact with the children, age, physical well-being, and future ability to care for the grandchildren are relevant factors that I believe a court would consider.

What we in the family law world see happen with some frequency is a grandparent raising their grandchild on an informal basis. This means that there has been an agreement in place (usually verbal) that allows the grandparent to care for a child while their parents are unavailable or unwilling to do so.

These agreements can go on for years and years before a parent or grandparent seeks to formalize or change the arrangement. If you are a grandparent who has cared for your grandchild for years only to have a parent try to take them from you, that may be a situation where you want to file for court-ordered visitation, possession, and conservatorship rights.

Mediation- A Great Alternative to Litigation and Trial

The vast majority of family law cases in Texas never see the inside of a courtroom or proceed to a trial. This is mainly due to mediation’s role in the negotiation process. If you have concerns about how long or how expensive a divorce or child custody case can get, then mediation is an alternative that may encourage settlement and shorten the length of your case. We will discuss this topic in greater detail tomorrow.

Grandparents in Texas: What Rights Do They Have In Regard to Visitation?

In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding your particular family law-related circumstances, please consider contacting the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations with one of our licensed family law attorneys six days a week.

A consultation in our office is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the legal process and how it would impact your situation. We take great pride in providing information that can allow you to make good decisions on the next steps you can take to reach your goals, no matter what they might be.

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