Many of grew up with our grandparents playing an important role in our lives. In some cases it could have been as our primary caretaker(s) in the event that our parents were unable to fill that role. In others it could mean that your grandparents were a part of your support system of extended family. Either way, I think most people would agree that grandparents can provide a sense of strength and stability for a family that may otherwise be in turmoil.
In some instances, grandparents can also fill the role of concerned person. If you are a grandparent who sees something going on in your family that you are not sure of or doesn’t feel right you may want to inquire about what your options may be to help your grandchildren about the stress and uncertainty that comes along with a family that is in disarray or facing difficult decisions and problems.
An important question that you as a grandparent would need to ask yourself before jumping head-first into a family law case is: what rights do grandparents have in Texas? Are you even able to pursue a case on behalf of your grandchild? What are the possible outcomes to your case? In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC we will discuss this topic in detail in order to provide you with important information that could inform your decision whether or not to move forward with a family law case of your own.
Presumption in favor of parents in Texas
The law in Texas is there is a presumption that parents are the best equipped out of anyone in a child’s life to make decisions on that child’s behalf. As such, they are given a great deal of latitude in order to make choices in regard to issues like medical care, education and who is able to come into contact with the child. In family law lingo, a parent is a managing conservator of a child until further order of a court. If at any time it becomes apparent that a parent continuing on as a managing conservator would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development (exact language from the Texas Family Code) then a court can step in and intercede on behalf of that child if and when a child custody case is filed.
How does a grandparent become a managing conservator?
Now that we’ve covered what a managing conservator is and how important their role in a child’s life can and should be, the next step in our discussion ought to be how would a grandparent step in and assert their rights in order to become a potential conservator of their grandchild.
As we’ve mentioned previously, grandparents don’t have a ton of rights in comparison to parents of a child. Nobody does, to be fair. However, under the right circumstances an involved grandparent can position themselves to act in that capacity for a grandchild. If you are a grandparent who has always taken an active role in your grandchild’s life and want what is best for him or her then you need to know what you can do to help.
In practicing family law, the attorneys at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC have had the opportunity to represent grandparents who are seeking our help to assist them and their families when a child is in trouble become of parents who are unable to step up to the plate and deliver on the key responsibilities of parenting. In some circumstances the situations have become bad enough where the grandparent believes that it is necessary that their grandchild be removed from their home and placed into the care of the grandparent.
To even get your foot in the door as a grandparent in a Texas conservatorship case you must first qualify to do so under the laws concerning standing.
A grandparent’s potential grounds for standing in regard to a Texas conservatorship case
The Texas Family Code specifically lays out the ways in which a grandparent is able to enter into and become a party to a family law case. For instance, you as a grandparent may file a lawsuit on behalf of your grandchild if you can show to a court that an order needs to be issued due to your grandchild’s present home being a threat to their physical health or welfare. An alternative to this requirement would be if your grandparent’s parents both consented to the filing of the lawsuit.
Facts are obviously important, then. You should meet with an experienced family law attorney (like those with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC) in order to detail an account of why your grandchild’s circumstances rise to the level endangering his or her physical health or welfare. Do you have any people- family members, friends, etc.- who can back up your assertions and provide additional details that could boost the strength of your case? The attorney can then provide you with an honest assessment of your situation and tell you how likely you are to be successful when and if you file a lawsuit.
If you do decide to file a conservatorship case it is wise to file for emergency orders that will allow you to take possession of your grandchild for a two week period until you care able to get a day in court to provide further justification as to why you should be able to retain possession of your grandchild. To do so, you will need to submit a statement to the judge in the form of an affidavit. An affidavit is a statement made under oath and put into writing detailing the circumstances that you believe justify your taking immediate possession of your grandchild. When your case is filed that statement would be attached to the Petition. If a judge believes that the circumstances require it, an emergency order can be created that awards you custody.
Temporary Orders in a conservatorship case
The emergency order that is created would be in effect for 14 days. Before the expiration of the 14 days a court hearing would be held that will allow you, and the child’s parents, to provide evidence as to why or why not the order should be extended that give you temporary possession. Notice of the hearing will need to be provided to your grandchild’s parents so that they can attend this hearing as well. Any temporary orders that come out of this hearing will go into effect until further order of the court- likely at the time that your case settles and final orders are drafted.
Ultimately what you are looking at when filing a grandparent conservatorship case is Texas is that if a court initially makes a determination that your grandchild is best off living with you, it is the responsibility of your child’s parent(s) to make changes in their lives in order to allow your grandchild to return to their home. Again, parents are given the benefit of the doubt in many ways during a case like yours. The court at its core would like to see your grandchild live with his or her parents. It is only under extreme circumstances that continued possession by you would be allowed.
More on grandparent and other extended family conservatorship in tomorrow’s blog post
If you are interested in learning more about grandparent and extended family conservatorship then I recommend that you come back to our blog tomorrow as well. We will share helpful hints and a story about former clients of ours who, as grandparents, undertook their own family law case in hopes of helping their grandchildren who were in a difficult spot at home.
In the meantime if you have any questions about the subject matter in today’s blog then do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with a licensed family law attorney here in our office. It is our honor to listen to your questions, address your concerns and to talk with you about the ways that our office can benefit you and your family.