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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 our long-time clients. 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 of their grandchildren were sentenced to a twenty-year prison term last year for a sex-related crime.

Our clients' wife and daughter-in-law were 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

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

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 could they contact their grandparents. Our clients thought 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 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 seen them much over the prior half-year, both of our clients were happy at this result.

An essential piece of advice was given to our clients by myself at mediation. I let them know that even though they could not negotiate a transfer of custody from mom to them at mediation, they were laying the groundwork for a court to do so in the future should the need arise. Our clients 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 be flipped from mom to her sister effectively. 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 the 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 to succeed in this type of lawsuit.

The affidavit detailed to the judge the level of involvement they had in the children's lives before bringing 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 about how the mother and father were unable to provide for the children's financial, emotional, or physical well-being.

The Texas Family Code provides that a relative who is within the third degree of consanguinity can file a lawsuit requesting that they 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. They had provided testimony in a trial regarding the potential harm that could befall the children should they remain in the aunt's care in their present environment.

Overall, the facts of this case were as sad as you might expect. Given the nature of their parent's crimes, it would make sense to do everything possible to help fortify their children's mental health. 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. 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 biological parent's parental rights were not terminated, they lost many requests 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 remarkable 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 sense of what was best for their grandchildren and the advice of their attorneys to fight for and win a conservatorship over their grandchildren. While the path they took to achieve that goal was not strictly 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 essential 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 the 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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