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When does the extended family of a child have standing to sue for custody in Texas?

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC recently had cause to celebrate a huge victory for long-time clients of ours. These clients are grandparents who live in North Texas but whose grandchildren reside here in the Houston area. Unfortunately the son of our clients and the father to their grandchildren was sentenced to a twenty year prison term last year for a sex-related crime.

His wife and the daughter in law to our clients was sent to prison this year on a related charge. The grandchildren ended up living with a maternal aunt with whom the mother and grandchildren had been residing.

A 2016 case led the way to the ultimate victory in 2017

These grandparents came to our office last year seeking representation to win custody of their grandchildren. They feared (reasonably) that the environment that they were being exposed to with their mother was dangerous to the long and short-term development of these teenagers.

The grandparents had little contact with their grandchildren in the previous four or five months but they believed the children were not being made to attend school nor were they able to contact their grandparents. Basically, our clients believed that they offered the best environment for these kids to be raised as successful and happy people.

Despite their intentions and goals, our clients were not able to immediately able to win primary custody of their grandchildren. Ultimately we attended mediation along with their daughter in law and we settled on mandatory monthly visits for our clients with their grandchildren. Considering that they had not been able to see them much if at all over the prior half year both of our clients were happy at this result.

An important piece of advice was given to our clients by myself at mediation as well. I let them know that even though they were not able to negotiate a transfer of custody from mom to them at mediation that they were laying the groundwork for a court to do so in the future should the need arise. Our clients basically needed time to re-establish a relationship with their grandparents if they again wanted to pursue custody rather than solely having visitation rights.

As mentioned earlier in this blog post, the children’s mother stood trial and was found guilty of a sex-related crime this year. She, like her husband, was sentenced to an extended prison term that caused custody to effectively be flipped from mom to her sister. Once our clients learned about this occurring, they contacted us and again engaged in a court case in which they asserted to the court that now was an appropriate time to award them conservatorship rights over the children. What does this mean in the context of an extended family member’s ability to win custody of a child? Read on to find out more about this subject.

A person must have standing to pursue a lawsuit in Texas

Our clients brought a petition in Harris County seeking to be named sole managing conservators of their grandchildren. Along with their petition, each wrote and signed affidavits stating to the court just how the children’s present environment would harm in a significant manger the health and emotional development of the children. This is required under the Texas Family Code in order to be successful in this type of lawsuit.

The affidavit detailed to the judge the level of involvement that they had in the children’s lives prior to brining their 2016 case to court and pointed out the lengths they had gone to in the past year to have visitation rights over their grandchildren. Finally, the affidavit provided as much factual information as they could muster as to how the mother and father were unable to provide for the financial, emotional or physical well being of the children.

The Texas Family Code provides that a relative who is within the third degree of consanguinity can file a lawsuit requesting that he or she become managing conservators over a child if the failure to do so would significantly impair the health or emotional development of the child. Our clients met the requirements in that they were within the third degree of consanguinity and had provided testimony in a trial regarding the potential harm that could befall the children should they remain in the care of the aunt in their present environment.

Overall, the facts of this case were as sad as you might expect. Given the nature of their parents crimes it would make sense to do everything possible to help fortify the mental health of their children. However, the mother had made no attempts to seek counseling or therapy for the children while she was not incarcerated. School attendance proved to be sporadic at best as well. Basically, the concerns exhibited by our clients were proved in court to be well founded and accurate.

The court ultimately ruled in favor of our clients and awarded them a conservatorship over the children. While the parental rights of the biological parents were not terminated, they lost a significant amount of rights to their children, notably the right to determine their primary residence. It is not often that clients have a “perfect” day in court but when these grandparents walked out of the courtroom on that day with the right to raise their grandchildren in their back pockets it was a truly wonderful outcome.

Questions on custody, conservatorship and the rights of extended family to bring family lawsuits? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

Our clients utilized their own sense of what was best for their grandchildren as well as the advice of their attorneys to fight for an win a conservatorship over their grandchildren. While the path they took to arriving at that goal was not exactly linear, their mindset was to get there no matter what obstacles stood in their way.

If you have any questions about this subject or any other in family law please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. A free of charge consultation is only a phone call away.


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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. When Your Child's Extended Family Wants Visitation in Texas
  2. You're a Grandparent- What rights do you have in Texas?
  3. Custody and Visitation Rights of Grandparents in Texas
  4. Grandparents' Rights in Texas
  5. Grandparent Visitation Rights in Texas?
  6. Grandparent Rights, Standing, and the Parental Presumption
  7. How Does Summertime Visitation Work for Divorced Parents in Texas?
  8. How does summer visitation work?
  9. 10 Quick Tips About Parental Visitation
  10. When Your Child's Extended Family Wants Visitation in Texas
  11. Supervised Visitation in a Texas Divorce: Can it happen to me?

Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding Divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Child Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our Divorce lawyers in Spring TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.


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