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What Is Standing and How Does It Apply to Your Texas Family Law Case?

What Is Standing and How Does It Apply to Your Texas Family Law Case?

Standing in family law determines your right to participate in a case. But it’s not just about showing up – it’s about having the power to argue your side, present evidence, and ultimately, win your case.

So, if you’re ready to conquer the challenges of standing in family law and emerge victorious, join us on this exciting journey. Together, we’ll demystify the legal labyrinth, empower you with knowledge, and ensure that your voice is heard. Get ready to unlock your rights and win your case!

Standing in Family Law: Unlocking Your Rights and Winning Your Case

In the world of family law, standing is a concept that is involved with most cases before a court. A court has no authority to decide your case if you and/or the other party do not have standing to appear. If a court determines that you have standing to present an issue, that does not mean that you will automatically win your case. All it means is that you have a right to argue your case in front of that court and have the judge issue a decision.

If you have filed an original lawsuit (the first lawsuit filed in any family law case) the courts in Texas will use a parental presumption rule. This means that the court will presume that the best interests of the child in your case are served by awarding custody to that child’s parent. If you are a nonparent who is attempting to win custody of a child you will need to overcome that parental presumption. To do so, you would need to show that appointing that parent to be the child’s primary caretaker would significantly impair the child’s health or development or that the parent voluntarily relinquished the child.

However, this burden does not apply to cases where all you want to do is bring a child custody lawsuit on behalf of a child and against that child’s parent. Within the standing requirement on an original lawsuit, no parental presumption plays any role.

Now that we have provided you with a general overview of standing and its role within a family law case, let’s discuss how standing can impact you depending on your relationship with the subject children.

Standing as a Grandparent in a Family Law Case

The evolving family landscape has amplified the significance of grandparents’ rights. Grandparents may pursue either court-sanctioned visitation or conservatorship of their grandchildren, depending on the scenario. This article delves into these possibilities within the context of legal standing.

Unlike parents, grandparents face restricted avenues for initiating custody lawsuits. However, as immediate family members, they hold the standing to file for child custody and conservatorship. A common circumstance granting grandparents standing is having actual control and possession of a grandchild for at least six months, ending no more than 90 days before the lawsuit. These criteria represent clear pathways for grandparents to assert their rights in custody cases.

What Is Standing and How Does It Apply to Your Texas Family Law Case?

Consider a hypothetical scenario in Texas: You, a grandparent, have cared for your grandchild since your daughter’s (the child’s mother) passing. The child has lived with you since birth. Opposing you is the child’s father, who challenges your control-based standing, citing parental rights. What’s your next move?

Should you successfully navigate standing hurdles, the subsequent challenge is proving that appointing the child’s father as the primary conservator would substantially harm the child’s physical or emotional well-being. This necessitates evidence of immediate physical or emotional danger to the child.

For grandparents seeking custody, the imperative is clear: provide compelling evidence of potential harm to the grandchild. The burden of proof is substantial, but navigating these legal complexities can lead to a favorable outcome in your quest to safeguard your grandchild’s well-being.

What Would Be an Example of a Situation Where Grandparents Did Not Have Standing to Proceed on a Child Custody Lawsuit?

The key to winning a standing argument is that naming a parent as a primary conservator would significantly impair their physical health or emotional development. Merely restricting visitation with you is not enough cause to meet this burden. So, even if you and your grandchildren are very close, that alone is not enough to argue that your grandchildren will suffer mental or physical harm due to that relationship being affected by the parents’ decision.

What Happens if You Want Custody of Your Grandchildren but Not Primary Custody?

Th law in Texas holds that you as a grandparent may file an original lawsuit where you are asking the court to name you as a managing conservator of your grandchild. This means that you would have the primary responsibility of caring for your grandchild- having him or her live with you, ensuring that he or she goes to school, etc.

On the other hand, you may not file an original lawsuit where you are asking the court to name you as a possessory conservator. A possessory conservator has the right to make decisions for a child but is not in charge of the daily responsibility of raising the child. However, in a pending child custody case, you may seek to intervene into the previously filed lawsuit to be named a possessory conservator. In order to successfully intervene into a lawsuit, you must show a trial court judge that there is a significant impairment of your grandchild’s physical health or emotional development.

What Is Standing and How Does It Apply to Your Texas Family Law Case?

If you are an adult sibling of a child and wish to bring a lawsuit asking for conservatorship rights over a child you may do so as long as you meet one of the standing requirements listed below.

  • If you are a person (other than a foster parent) who has had actual care, control, and possession of the child for at least six months ending not more than 90 days preceding the date of the filing of the custody petition
  • If you are a person with whom the child and the child’s guardian, managing conservator, or parent have resided with for at least 6 months ending not more than 90 days preceding the date of the filing of the petition if the child’s guardian, managing conservator, or parent is deceased at the time of the filing of the petition
  • If you are a person who is a close relative (uncle, aunt, first or second cousin, grandparent, brother or sister) and there is proof that thee order that you are requesting is necessary because your sibling’s present circumstances would significantly impair their physical health or emotional development or your lawsuit has been consented to by your sibling’s parents, managing conservator or surviving parent.

If you are an adult sibling to a child and are interested in being awarded possessory conservatorship of that child you may do so by intervening into a previously filed Suit Affecting the Parent Child Relationship. The court would need to determine that you have had substantial past contact with the child to allow you to intervene in the case.

The other circumstance that must be in play would that appointing a parent as the sole managing conservator of the child or both parents as joint managing conservators of the child would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development.

What if You Are an Adult Sibling to a Child and Just Want to Have Access to Him or Her?

You may not be interested in gaining a conservator relationship with your minor sibling. You may only want to be able to see, spend time with and build a relationship with that child. If you find yourself in this position, you should pay close attention to this section of today’s blog post. This applies also to siblings who lost access to one of their siblings through a Child Protective Services (CPS) investigation.

The Texas Family Code tells us that the sibling of a child may file an original suit requesting access to the child as long as you are at least 18 years old. Suppose you have been separated from this child because of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). In that case, you can file an original lawsuit to gain access to the child or a modification lawsuit that seeks to modify the terms related to access. All in all, if a judge finds it in your sibling’s best interests to grant you access to him or her, then the court will allow you to do so.

One last point that I wanted to make in regard to siblings gaining access/conservatorship rights to their other siblings is that it is unclear whether or not a minor child may file a lawsuit (with thee assistance of a parent or guardian) that seeks to gain access to one of their siblings.

Some parts of the Texas Family Code require that siblings requesting access to a brother or sister be at least 18 years old. Standing may depend on the age that the sibling is. Since this appears to be an unsettled area of the law, you should check with a family law attorney experienced in sibling access cases before moving forward with a lawsuit.

A Story About Two Grandparents and Their Grandchildren That Should Give You Hope

For grandparents yearning for a connection with their grandchildren, today’s blog offers a beacon of hope. It’s an all-too-common heartache: grandparents denied access to their grandchildren, severing a once-close bond.

Our firm once championed the cause of such grandparents. Their son was incarcerated, and their daughter-in-law barred any contact with the grandchildren. From regular visits to a painful silence, these grandparents faced an uphill battle in Houston, consistently denied access by the mother’s family.

Complicating matters, the mother faced imminent incarceration. The grandparents’ aim? To secure managing conservatorship of their grandchildren. We cautioned them about the challenges ahead, but we were committed to their cause. Through mediation, we achieved a significant breakthrough: a possession and access order granting the grandparents substantial time with their grandchildren, including holiday periods.

As the situation evolved, the mother, facing prison, consented to the grandparents being appointed as managing conservators. With the parents as possessory conservators, the children moved in with their grandparents, thriving in this new arrangement.

This story underscores a powerful message: persistence and the right legal guidance can turn the tide, even against seemingly insurmountable odds. The grandparents’ unwavering love and dedication, coupled with expert legal support, transformed their situation, reuniting them with their beloved grandchildren.

What is Standing in Family Law?

In the world of family law, standing is a concept that plays a vital role in almost every case that comes before a court. So, what exactly is standing? Standing refers to the legal right of an individual or party to bring a case before the court and have their arguments heard. In simpler terms, it determines whether you have the authority to participate in a family law case.

It’s important to note that having standing doesn’t guarantee victory in your case. It simply grants you the right to present your arguments and evidence before the court and have a judge make a decision. The decision itself will be based on the merits of your case and the applicable laws.

Types of Family Law Cases Where Standing Matters

Standing is a crucial factor in various types of family law cases. Let’s take a closer look at some of these cases:

Type of Family Law Case

Description

Divorce

In a divorce case, both parties must establish standing to initiate legal proceedings and have their case heard by the court.

Child Custody

Standing is crucial in child custody cases, as it determines who has the right to seek custody or conservatorship of a child.

Visitation Rights

Individuals seeking court-ordered visitation rights must establish standing to maintain a relationship with a child, even if they are not seeking primary custody.

Child Support

Standing is relevant in child support cases, as only individuals with standing can request child support from the non-custodial parent.

Adoption

Those wishing to pursue adoption must establish standing to initiate the adoption process and be considered as potential adoptive parents.

To establish standing in family law cases, specific legal requirements and criteria must be met. These requirements can vary depending on the jurisdiction, but here are some common factors:

Parental Presumption:

In Texas, for example, there is a parental presumption rule in child custody cases. This means that if you’re a parent seeking custody, the court will presume that it’s in the child’s best interests to award custody to a parent. Non-parents, such as grandparents or siblings, need to overcome this parental presumption to establish standing.

Control and Possession of a Child:

Another way to establish standing is by demonstrating control and possession of the child. This typically means showing that you have had physical custody and care of the child for a specific period, such as six months, preceding the filing of the lawsuit.

Duration of Care:

In some cases, standing may be established by demonstrating that you have been the primary caregiver for the child for an extended period. This can be relevant for non-parents, such as grandparents or siblings, who have assumed the responsibility of caring for the child.

Relationship to the Child:

Your relationship to the child is a crucial factor in establishing standing. Typically, immediate family members, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, or siblings, have a stronger standing compared to more distant relatives.

It’s important to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney to understand the specific legal requirements for establishing standing in your jurisdiction.

The Parental Presumption Rule in Texas

In Texas family law cases, the parental presumption rule plays a significant role in child custody determinations. This rule is based on the principle that the child’s best interests are usually served by awarding custody to a parent.

When a parent initiates a child custody case as the first lawsuit in a family law matter, the court applies the parental presumption. This means that the court starts with the assumption that awarding custody to a parent is in the child’s best interests. However, it’s important to note that the parental presumption can be overcome in certain circumstances.

Overcoming the Parental Presumption

Non-parents, such as grandparents or siblings, who seek custody or conservatorship rights over a child must overcome the parental presumption. Overcoming this presumption is no easy task, as the law prioritizes the rights of parents. However, it is possible under specific circumstances. Let’s explore some ways in which non-parents can overcome the parental presumption:

Significant Impairment:

To overcome the parental presumption, you must show the court that appointing the parent as the primary conservator would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development. This requires presenting evidence that demonstrates a serious risk of harm to the child’s well-being.

Voluntary Relinquishment:

Another way to overcome the parental presumption is by demonstrating that the parent voluntarily relinquished the child. This can be established by providing evidence that shows the parent willingly gave up their parental rights or responsibilities.

It’s important to understand that overcoming the parental presumption is a complex and challenging process. You should consult with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the legal requirements and help you build a strong case.

Factors Considered in Determining Standing

In addition to the specific legal requirements for establishing standing, courts also consider various factors when determining standing in family law cases. These factors typically revolve around the best interests of the child. Here are some key factors that courts may take into account:

Child’s Best Interests:

The primary consideration in family law cases is the child’s best interests. Courts strive to make decisions that promote the child’s well-being, safety, and emotional development.

Physical and Emotional Well-being:

Courts assess the physical and emotional well-being of the child when determining standing. They consider factors such as the child’s living conditions, relationships, and any potential harm or impairment that may result from certain custody arrangements.

Potential Harm or Impairment:

If serious concerns about the child’s physical health or emotional development exist, courts are more likely to grant standing to non-parents seeking custody or conservatorship rights. The potential harm or impairment to the child is a crucial factor in these cases.

These factors play a significant role in determining standing in the court’s decision-making process. It’s essential to gather relevant evidence and present a compelling case demonstrating how your involvement is in the child’s best interests.

The legal process for establishing standing in family law cases involves several steps. Let’s walk through the typical process:

Filing an Original Lawsuit:

To initiate a family law case and establish standing, you must file an original lawsuit with the appropriate court. The lawsuit should clearly state the nature of your claim and the relief you seek, such as custody or conservatorship rights.

Intervention in Ongoing Cases:

In some situations, you may need to intervene in an ongoing family law case to establish standing. This typically applies when there is already a custody or conservatorship proceeding, and you believe your involvement is necessary to protect the child’s best interests.

Court Evaluation and Decision:

Once you have filed the lawsuit or intervened in an existing case, the court will evaluate the evidence and arguments presented by all parties. The judge will consider the legal requirements for standing, the child’s best interests, and any other relevant factors before making a decision.

Working with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the legal process, help you gather evidence, and present a compelling case to establish your standing is crucial.

Rights and Responsibilities of Managing Conservators

When a court grants an individual managing conservatorship rights over a child, it means that person assumes the primary responsibility for caring for the child and making important decisions on their behalf. Let’s take a closer look at the rights and responsibilities of managing conservators:

Caring for the Child:

As a managing conservator, you have the primary responsibility for the child’s care, including providing them with a safe and nurturing environment. This involves meeting the child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs.

Making Decisions:

Managing conservators have the authority to make important decisions on behalf of the child. This can include decisions regarding the child’s education, healthcare, religious upbringing, and extracurricular activities.

Ensuring Well-being:

A managing conservator is responsible for the child’s overall well-being. This includes promoting a healthy and supportive environment, fostering positive relationships, and protecting the child from harm.

It’s important to understand that being named a managing conservator comes with significant responsibilities. The court entrusts you with the welfare and best interests of the child, and it’s essential to fulfill these responsibilities diligently and responsibly.

Possessory Conservatorship and Its Implications

In some cases, individuals may seek possessory conservatorship of a child. Possessory conservatorship grants the right to make decisions for the child but does not involve assuming primary responsibility for their daily care. Here’s a closer look at possessory conservatorship and its implications:

Decision-Making Authority:

As a possessory conservator, you have the authority to make decisions for the child, such as educational choices or medical decisions. However, the managing conservator’s primary responsibility for the child’s care remains.

Limited Physical Possession:

Possessory conservators typically have limited physical possession or visitation periods with the child. This means you can spend time with the child and build a relationship, but you are not the primary caregiver.

Coordinating with Managing Conservator:

Maintaining effective communication and cooperation with the managing conservator is important, as decisions regarding the child’s well-being and upbringing should be made collaboratively.

If you are seeking possessory conservatorship, you may need to intervene in an ongoing family law case and demonstrate that appointing a parent as the sole managing conservator or both parents as joint managing conservators would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development.

Access Rights for Siblings

Siblings play a crucial role in a child’s life, and it’s important to consider their rights to access and maintain relationships with each other. Let’s explore the legal provisions and considerations related to siblings seeking access or visitation rights:

Filing an Original Suit:

Under Texas Family Code, a sibling who is at least 18 years old may file an original suit to request access to their sibling. This allows siblings to initiate legal proceedings to gain visitation rights and maintain a relationship with each other.

Child Protective Services (CPS) Investigations:

Suppose a sibling has been separated from their brother or sister due to a Child Protective Services (CPS) investigation. In that case, they can file an original lawsuit to regain access to the child. They may also file a modification lawsuit to modify the terms related to access.

Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS):

The DFPS may also play a role in determining access rights for siblings. Their involvement is particularly relevant when there are concerns about the child’s safety or well-being.

It’s important to note that there may be age restrictions for siblings seeking access to their brothers or sisters. While the law requires siblings requesting access to be at least 18 years old, the issue of standing for younger siblings remains unsettled. Consultation with an experienced family law attorney is crucial when pursuing access rights for siblings.

Case Examples and Precedents

To further illustrate the application of standing in Texas family law cases, let’s consider some case examples and precedents:

Example 1: Grandparents Seeking Custody

Imagine a situation where the children’s parents have denied grandparents access to their grandchildren. Despite a close relationship, the denial of access has caused distress. The grandparents decide to take legal action to gain custody or conservatorship rights over the grandchildren.

In this case, the grandparents would need to establish standing by showing that appointing the parents as primary conservators would significantly impair the grandchildren’s physical health or emotional development. They would need to present evidence of potential harm or impairment to the children’s well-being due to the denial of their relationship with the grandparents.

Example 2: Siblings Seeking Possessory Conservatorship

Consider a scenario where adult siblings wish to have possessory conservatorship of their younger sibling. They want to maintain a meaningful relationship and be involved in the sibling’s life without assuming primary responsibility.

To establish standing, the siblings must demonstrate substantial past contact with the sibling. They need to prove that appointing a parent as the sole managing conservator or both parents as joint managing conservators would significantly impair the sibling’s physical health or emotional development.

These examples highlight the importance of understanding standing and the burden of proof involved in seeking custody or conservatorship rights. Each case is unique, and the outcome will depend on the specific circumstances and evidence presented.

Tips for Navigating Standing Issues

Navigating standing issues in Texas family law cases can be challenging. Here are some practical tips and strategies to help you through the process:

  1. Consult with an Experienced Attorney: Seek guidance from an experienced family law attorney who can explain the legal requirements, guide you through the process, and advocate for your rights.
  2. Gather Strong Evidence: Build a solid case by gathering evidence that supports your claim for standing. This can include documentation, witness statements, and expert opinions, depending on the circumstances.
  3. Understand the Best Interests of the Child: Familiarize yourself with the best interests of the child standard. Courts prioritize the child’s well-being, and aligning your arguments with this standard can strengthen your case.
  4. Work Collaboratively: In cases involving multiple parties, such as parents, grandparents, or siblings, strive for collaboration and cooperation. Demonstrating a willingness to work together for the child’s benefit can positively influence the court’s decision.
  5. Be Prepared for Legal Process: Understand the legal process involved in establishing standing, whether it’s filing an original lawsuit or intervening in an ongoing case. Prepare for court hearings, mediation, and potential negotiations.
  6. Consider Alternative Dispute Resolution: Explore alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, to resolve standing and custody issues. Mediation can provide a more collaborative and less adversarial approach, potentially resulting in mutually agreeable solutions.

Remember, establishing standing can be a complex and emotionally challenging process. It’s essential to approach it with patience, perseverance, and the support of experienced professionals who can guide you through the legal intricacies.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, standing is a crucial concept in Texas family law cases. It determines an individual’s right to bring a case before the court and participate in child custody and conservatorship decisions. Understanding the legal requirements, factors considered, and strategies for establishing standing is key to navigating family law proceedings successfully. Seek professional legal guidance, gather strong evidence, and prioritize the child’s best interests to effectively assert your rights and protect the well-being of the children involved.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does having standing mean in law?

Having standing in law means that an individual has the legal right to bring a case before the court and participate in the legal proceedings. It establishes that the person has a sufficient connection to the case and has a direct stake or interest in the outcome.

What does no standing mean in law?

No standing in law refers to the situation where an individual or party does not have the legal right to bring a case before the court or participate in the legal proceedings. Without standing, their claims may be dismissed or not considered by the court.

What is standing in government?

In the context of government, standing refers to the eligibility or legal right of a person or entity to bring a lawsuit or challenge a governmental action. It ensures that only those directly affected or with a significant interest can seek judicial review of governmental decisions.

What does the Constitution say about standing?

The U.S. Constitution does not explicitly mention standing; however, the concept is derived from the “case or controversy” requirement in Article III. The courts have developed standing requirements through interpretations of the Constitution, ensuring that there is an actual controversy between parties with a concrete and particularized injury.

What is an example of standing in court?

An example of standing in court is when a person files a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a law that directly affects their rights or interests. By demonstrating a personal stake in the outcome and showing that they have suffered or will suffer harm, they establish standing to bring the case before the court.

What are the four requirements of standing?

The four requirements of standing typically include:

  1. An actual or imminent injury that is concrete and particularized.
  2. A causal connection between the injury and the conduct being challenged.
  3. A likelihood that the injury can be redressed by a favorable court decision.
  4. The plaintiff must be the proper party to assert the claim.

Why is standing important in court?

Standing is important in court because it ensures that only those with a genuine legal interest and injury have access to the judicial system. It helps maintain the separation of powers and prevents individuals or entities without a direct stake from flooding the courts with frivolous or irrelevant claims.

The elements of legal standing generally include:

  • Personal injury or harm that is concrete and particularized.
  • Causation showing a direct connection between the injury and the actions of the defendant.
  • Redressability, meaning that a favorable court decision can remedy the injury.
  • Proper party status, ensuring that the plaintiff is the appropriate person or entity to bring the claim.

Yes, standing is considered a legal right that grants individuals or parties the ability to assert their claims and seek relief in the court system. It is an essential principle of law that helps ensure fairness, legitimacy, and efficient judicial proceedings.

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