Grandparents are an essential part of the extended family of many children. Millions of grandparents around the country offer both emotional and financial support to their grandchildren each year. These grandchildren help keep their grandparents connected to their family and society in years that they otherwise may become more isolated. This can be a symbiotic relationship where both the little ones and their caretakers benefit from the relationship.
However, that doesn't mean that there are not also challenges associated with raising grandchildren. If you are a grandparent, you probably know exactly what I am talking about. For one, there are the physical challenges associated with raising grandkids. When your body starts to tell you that it may be time for you to slow down some, you also begin to take on the responsibility of caring for one (or more) little people with seemingly boundless energy. This can make you want the aging process to delay itself just a little bit longer. Or at least convince you to purchase that gym membership that you've been considering.
There are also the relational difficulties of raising your grandchildren. Let's be honest here- if you as a grandparent are getting called back into child-raising duty, then something is not great on the home front for your grandchildren. Either one of their parents is in jail, one or both parents are not fit or ready to care for the kids, or something else has happened that causes you to believe that you offer a better place for the kids to grow up than their existing home with their parents. That is a bold proclamation that may not make mom and dad all that happy. It would help if you were very confident in your ability to raise these grandchildren as well as your capacity to maintain relationships with their parents throughout the time that the grandkids are in your home.
The other pressing challenge that you will encounter while raising grandchildren is financial. When I picture you as a grandparent, I do not necessarily picture an "older" person who no longer works and is dependent on a small nest egg and Social Security for subsistence. I am showing a person approaching retirement age with perhaps some physical difficulties but with a strong work ethic and an even stronger love for their grandchildren. You may have the best intentions in the world when it comes to raising your grandchildren, but every person has limits to what they can afford to do- and not do. Putting an extra two or three mouths to feed and backsides to clothe in your home can send you to a breaking point as far as your finances are concerned.
As the American family changes over time, I see no reason grandparents will become less prominent as far as daily caregivers for children. It would help if you did not shy away from doing this for your grandchildren, bearing in mind the financial, relationally, and physical limitations. With that said, you need to be prepared for being in a position where either your child or their spouse/partner does not agree with your being the daily caretaker of your children. What can you do to preserve your rights to be in possession and have visitation with your grandchildren even in the face of pressure from a parent?
In today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we will discuss this subject matter with you. Namely, when do grandparents have visitation rights to their grandchildren? Additionally, what are your rights as a grandparent regarding the critical issues of access, visitation, and possession? Finally, we will go over where you can go from here if you have questions or believe that you are in a position where you need to press for visitation rights or even conservatorship of your grandchildren.
Visitation with your grandchildren- what does the law in Texas say?
If you are a grandparent who has not been able to visit with your grandchildren for many years due to a disagreement with their parents or for any reason like this, then you probably think about your grandchildren many times each day. It can feel like the rug was pulled out from underneath you when you were at one time able to see your grandchildren whenever you wanted to but now are told that you can no longer visit with them. The primary cause of this may have been when your child moved apart from their partner, and now your grandchild has to split their time between two households. There isn't much time left for grandma and grandpa at the end of the day.
You may have tried to have a civil and straightforward conversation with your child to determine whether they would be willing to allow you to see your grandchildren more frequently. That conversation probably did not go over very well based on several factors. This is an assumption that I am making given that you are reading A blog post on a family attorney's website regarding grandparent rights. At one time, you may have considered talking to your grandchild's other parent, but that would be going above the head of your child, and that is something that could harm your relationship with your child moving forward. Having exhausted all your resources, you are not sure where to turn and are worried that you will not be able to see your grandchildren much, if at all, in the future and that your relationship with them will suffer.
Do we need to answer today whether you as a grandparent have legal rights to see your grandchildren? How does the state of Texas come down on this question, and what are the chances of you having visitation rights established with your grandchildren if this is even possible? The reality of these circumstances that you find yourself in is that there is no clear-cut answer one way or the other. This probably is not the answer that you wanted to hear, but it is the reality of your situation. We will need to look at multiple factors in play regarding your position with your grandchildren. However, those circumstances need to be viewed considering Texas law regarding grandparents' custody and visitation of grandchildren.
The Texas family code does contain provisions and statutes directed explicitly at grandparents. If you are curious, you can look up the Texas family code online and flip to section 153. There you will find approximately three statutes that cover issues related to grandparent rights regarding visitation and custody of their grandchildren. If you do so and have questions about what you are reading, you are not alone. The language in it the Texas family code can seem like legal mumbo jumbo even to experienced attorneys. For that reason, if you are in a position where you want to seek visitation or custody rights over grandchildren, it would be a wise decision to at least consider speaking to an experienced family law attorney so that you can receive clear-cut guidance on how to proceed in light of these laws in Texas.
The bottom line is that these statutes explain where you as a grandparent have the right to ask a family court for access and visitation time with your grandchild. Additionally, the regulations layout scenarios where you as a grandparent can go beyond asking for premier visitation rights and obtain conservatorships rights and duties about your grandchildren. This would effectively make you a parent of your grandchild without adopting them. Becoming a conservator of your grandchildren means that you will be charged with caring for them much in the same way that a parent cares for a child in terms of providing them shelter and education while having the right to make decisions regarding that education and their health.
We need to be clear about simply because there are statutes on the books regarding conservatorships issues for grandparents that do not guarantee you any standing or success regarding a family law case involving your grandchildren as we are about to find out parents and not grandparents ultimately hold special rights to two children about decision making. If a grandparent is denied visitation by their child to their grandchildren, then the law presumes that the parent is deciding the children's best interests. This can be difficult for many grandparents in your position to accept. Still, it is a reality that you need to be aware of as you begin considering whether a family law case is suitable for you as well as in the best interest of your grandchildren.
The state of Texas has minimal circumstances under which you as a grandparent can request more visitation time with your grandchildren. As we just mentioned, the state of Texas presumes that when your child or your grandchild's other parent denies you visitation with your grandchildren, they are acting in the best interests of their child. In most scenarios, parents have the right to decide who can be in possession or even have access to their children. While this may seem cruel to a well-intentioned grandparent like yourself, it is the reality of the law in Texas and seeks to give parents the ultimate see-so when it comes to making decisions regarding the well-being of their kids. However, that does not mean that you have no recourse if you want to pursue greater access to your grandkids.
You need to be aware of some factors when it comes to requesting visitation or possession rights regarding their grandchildren. Again, a grandparent does not have any legal right to either of these things absent a court order. The reason grandparents can spend time with their grandchildren is that parents allow that to happen. Absent going to court and having a judge issue in an order granting you these rights, if your child-parent or Co-parent is denying you time with your grandkids, then you have no legal right to have possession, access, or visitation with them. For that reason, you need to pay close attention to these factors, and then I strongly consider that you contact an attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to walk with us through these factors and how they may impact you and your family.
The first factor that I would ask that you consider is that at least one biological or adoptive parent of your grandchild has not had that parents' parental rights terminated. This is a funny-sounding way of saying that if you are in a situation where neither of your grandchild's parents is still living or currently have parental rights to your grandchildren, then you are not able to request visitation or conservatorships rights about them. This is since someone else likely has conservative shipwrights currently, even if it is the state of Texas. Your ability in standing to proceed with a custody or visitation case hinges on you're having a child or child Co-parent still maintaining their parental rights to your grandkids. If not, you would not be able to proceed with a case.
Next, you would need to be able to show a family court that your child or their Co-parent is not acting in the best interest of your grandchildren by denying you visitation and possession time with your grandkids. Again, since the state presumes that all parents work in the best interests of their children regarding a subject matter like this, you can see that the deck is stacked against you somewhat in this regard. From my experience, it is not nearly sufficient for you to show that the grandchildren miss you. You would need to point out to a judge and provide evidence that by having your possession or access to your grandchildren denied, the well-being both physically and emotionally of your grandchild is suffering.
Practically speaking, this means that you must be able to show a family court judge that you have had a meaningful relationship with your grandchildren in the past. If you lived ten states over from Texas and saw your grandchildren once every couple of years, it probably isn't enough to show that you sent them care packages on their birthday or gave them a call on Christmas. Instead, we are talking about a circumstance where you cared for your grandchildren daily, spent a great deal of time with them, and generally were a massive part of their life. Otherwise, I don't see you being successful and overcoming the burden that your child is acting in the best interests of your grandchildren by denying you time. Again, this may not be warm-hearted, but it is the reality for most grandparents.
Finally, as a grandparent requesting possession of or access to your grandchild, you must be able to show that you are the parent of one of your grandchild's parents and that your child has either been incarcerated during the three months preceding the filing of your petition, has been found by a court to be incompetent, has died or does not have actual or court-ordered possession or access to your child. You need to put at least one of these four circumstances into place to proceed with a custody or visitation case. I have worked on grandparent cases where each of these circumstances has played a role. Specifically, in an event where your child is in jail with no date of release expected anytime soon and your child co-parent is denying you time with the kids, then this would seem like an opportune time to move forward with a case to attempt to win visitation rights.
Regardless of your situation, I think we can all agree that there are many moving pieces when it comes to a grandparent rights case in Texas. You need to be aware of your circumstances and be mindful of what the law requires of you before you can even have stood to approach a judge with evidence. All the while, you have your own life to maintain despite all your concern for your grandchildren. Because of this, I highly recommend contacting an attorney to discuss whether you have a case to pursue. It can be financially and emotionally harmful to begin a case like this only to be told that you do not have a chance at all by a judge. Rather than go through that, contact one of our attorneys today.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in this blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are an excellent way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law, but they can also provide you with clarity about your circumstances about the law in Texas.
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