The family unit is the most fundamental part of our society. The family represents the backbone of our community in which children are reared, relationships are grown, and we learn how to relate to one another and figure out how to live in a civil society. Almost without question, those of us who are the most successful in this world typically come from family homes; love, stability, and consistency are among the hallmarks for that family. Without question, the family unit and its importance cannot be overstated now or at any point in the past.
However, that does not mean that the family unit has not undergone some degree of change over the years. The family unit comprised a mother, father, and children living in the same household in prior generations. This is commonly referred to as the nuclear family and is what most of us think about when we think of a family. This is true whether or not we grew up in this kind of environment with a family structure that looks like the one I just described. Whether or not this was the ideal scenario to raise a family is a different question altogether. However, statistics show that the United States comprised more families like this in generations past than any other.
In the past few generations, we have seen the dynamics of family life in the United States begin to change. No-fault divorces and a host of other changes brought about in the legal system have created scenarios where the nuclear family is fading into the background as far as the most prevalent make up for families in our country. Single-parent households, households headed by adults who are not married, and households headed by persons caring for children who are not their biological kin are becoming more and more prevalent. With that said, we have seen the impact felt in many areas of society and most notably in the world of family law.
Grandparent rights is a growing movement in Texas in other states to honor and codify the ability of grandparents to be able to take an active and involved role in raising their grandchildren. Grandparents being able to play a part in raising children has always been a secondary right compared to the parents of those children. Grandparents are able to have a role in the lives of their grandchildren only due to the permission of parents. Once that permission from the parents comes to an end, the grandparents typically would have no legal right to interact with their grandchildren.
This is no different from if you and your parents had a falling out and did not allow your parents to see your children anymore. While this is not a pleasant scenario to think about, it is a reasonably common one considering the nature of families in 2020. As a practicing family law attorney, I have faced many families encountering difficult circumstances regarding raising children in extended family scenarios. Fortunately, our office has also been there to be a part of the creation of solutions that work well for all involved- especially grandparents.
In today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, I would like to discuss grandparents' rights about visiting with their grandchildren. This is a subject that is near and dear to the hearts of many grandparents in Texas who maybe have lost contact with their grandkids because of a decision from one or both of their grandchild's parents. While it is not always easy to lose time with your grandkids, if you are a grandparent, you can take heart that the state of Texas does provide for some rights concerning visiting with your grandkids. I want to discuss this topic with you today and go into a real-life scenario involving former clients of our office and how things worked out very well for these grandparents and their grandchildren.
Parents are given preference regarding their children and visitation issues.
Let's start at the beginning. Even if you as a grandparent have a longstanding and terrific relationship with your grandkids, you need to know that parents in Texas are given primary responsibility for making decisions in their best interest. We, as family law attorneys, are sometimes the bearers of bad news in this regard. The reality of the circumstances is that parents can deny grandparents Visitation under most circumstances for significant reasons or pretty much no reason at all. Grandparents do not have a codified right in Texas to visit with their grandkids if the parents do not want that to occur.
If you are a grandparent reading this, I do not blame you for feeling pessimistic or upset. However, you need to know that you do have options within the family courts of Texas, and your family's particular circumstances would play a significant role and whether or not you would be able to receive visitation rights to your grandkids after a family law case. However, you should know that heading into any grandparents rights case concerning Visitation that a family law court would be operating under the presumption that your child and their spouse, if there is a spouse involved, are fit in and able to act in that child's best interests when it comes to allowing access for a third party such as yourself.
Furthermore, grandparents do not have the mechanical ability even to bring a lawsuit to assert visitation rights under Texas family law. The most likely scenario that would allow you to have the standing necessary to obtain a grandparents visitation rights case would be that you were in direct control and care of your grandchildren for at least six months before filing the lawsuit. Circumstances like these with evidence that you and your spouse as grandparents have had the continuous and long-lasting contact with your grandchildren that would potentially harm the grandkids if it were taken away from them.
Additionally, there are other ways for you to get before a judge in asserting your Visitation rights as a grandparent. Over and above asking for Visitation rights, you may be able to present a lawsuit to a judge requesting that you become a conservator of the grandchild. There is a clear distinction between having mere visitation rights to your grandchild and having conservatorship rights as well. Conservatorship rights mean that you would become like a parent to the child and hold legal rights and duties to care for and make decisions on behalf of your grandchild's best interest. Whether or not this is something that you are interested in is all the more reason to continue reading today's blog post!
Suppose your grandchildren find themselves in a situation where their circumstances would harm their physical health or emotional well-being. In that case, you may be able to bring this sort of lawsuit requesting primary conservatorships over one of your grandchildren. Additionally, the suit may be brought even if your grandchild does not find themselves in this position but if your child and their spouse consent to the lawsuit being filed. If your child and their spouse are not going to offer any impediment to you filing the case, you should have the legal right to go ahead and file suit.
Additionally, a family court may be able to grant you, as long as you have had substantial past contact with your grandchildren, the ability to enter into a family suite as intervenors if you can show that both of the child's parents would be ill-suited to be named as joint managing conservators of the child. I realize that this explanation can be a little bulky so let's take a paragraph and explain what I mean.
Imagine that your child and their significant other were going through a child custody case. You had been denied, as a grandparent, the ability to visit with your grandchildren over the past few weeks due to the evil nature of this child custody case. However, you have had substantial past contact with the grandkids, and you even had been the primary caretaker for them for much of the past year. Under these types of circumstances, you may be able to file an intervening lawsuit within the preexisting child custody case to act as a party on behalf of yourself as the grandparent.
As you can see, there are multiple ways for you to skin a cat when it comes to Gaining time guaranteed by a court in Texas with your grandkids. However, what you should have also learned from this discussion is that it is challenging for a person who is not an expert in family law in Texas to handle situations like this on their own. As a result, I highly recommend that you hire an experienced family law attorney to represent you in one of these kinds of cases.
I realize that you may have spent your entire life never having waited into a legal case of any kind, and you may not be all that interested in doing so right now. The thought of hiring an attorney, whatever your opinion on attorneys is, may be the farthest thing from your mind at this period; however, I can tell you from personal experience in dealing with cases like these that to succeed in a grandparents visitation or conservatorship case that having an attorney by your side can make a huge difference. Going to a law library and looking up some books on family law will not prepare you sufficiently to proceed with a case you need to file.
Now that we have walked through grandparent visitation rights in Texas, I would like to provide you with some context from a story that I would like to share regarding grandparents' ex-successful attempts to gain visitation rights to their grandchildren.
A real-life example of grandparents gaining visitation rights to their grandkids
a few years ago, our law office had the opportunity to represent two grandparents in their lawsuit to gain Visitation rights to their grandkids. It was an unfortunate situation for their grandkids as the father of the grandkids was serving time in prison; the mother, while not in prison yet, was facing similar charges levied against the father, and she too would be going to jail soon. The father of the kids was the son of our clients. The children lived with an aunt here in the Houston area, and our clients lived in East Texas.
Our clients filed a lawsuit showing their substantial past contact with their grandkids from the time they were born up until a few weeks before filing the lawsuit. These grandparents had spent the better part of 10 years caring for these kids on a day in and day out basis before the mother suddenly cutting off all contact between the kids and the grandparents. After a brief hearing with the judge, mediation was ordered requiring the parties to go and attempt to settle their claim rather than proceed directly to a trial.
As it happens, the grandparents we represented were able to gain specific periods of Visitation throughout the year and mandatory phone calls between themselves and the grandkids each week. Initially, our clients felt like they had not gained as much time as they would have liked, but after a reflection, they were thrilled with the progress they made with this initial lawsuit.
Eventually, these grandparents could come back to court and obtain conservatorships rights over the grandkids after the mother and father consented to their doing so. We were fortunate enough to be a part of the success story where grandparents who loved and cared for their grandkids quite a bit stepped up to the plate, took care of a negative situation, and turned it into a positive one for themselves and their families. Take heart that, even if you find yourself struggling with a similar situation where you are being denied time with your grandkids, that there is almost always a light at the end of the tunnel.
Questions about Texas family law? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are free of charge and can help you learn more about our office and the services we provide to our clients.