What are my Legal Rights as a Grandparent in Texas? An overview of grandparent visitation in Texas.
Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights in Texas?
Grandparents have a legal right to visitation with their grandchildren. However, these rights are secondary to parental rights. That means the law guarantees a parent’s right to do what they feel is in their child’s best interest. Even if that means limiting or cutting off contact with a grandparent, these laws ensure the right of a parent to protect their children from individuals who may not have the child’s best interest at heart. However, this can make enforcing grandparent visitation a bit complicated.
When Can Grandparent Rights Be Enforced?
The conditions under which the court will enforce grandparent rights are particular. You may be able to enforce grandparent rights if the parents are:
- Suspected of abuse or neglect of the child
- Incompetent due to addiction or mental illness
- The parents have had their parental rights terminated
- The child has lived with the grandparents for at least six months
The court requires that visitation must be in the child’s best interest. If there is not clear and convincing evidence of this, then the court will not grant visitation.
The state also does not say how much visitation a grandparent can have. So, if, for example, the parents have limited your access to the child, you cannot sue for more visitation. Your best bet would be to try mending the relationship and asking to see the child more often.
How Do I Go About Getting Grandparents Rights?
When seeking grandparent visitation, the court does require that you have a prior relationship with the child. If you have no or limited contact with your grandchildren, your only real option may be to mend the relationship with the child’s parents.
Another option might be to petition for visitation, this does involve a lawsuit, but with mediation, you might be able to negotiate visitation. With increased access to your grandchildren, you might be able to gather the evidence needed to seek custody, if appropriate.
When Can a Grandparent Obtain Custody of a Grandchild?
In some situations, it may be necessary for a grandparent to take custody of their grandchildren. Under the law, the grandparent would be a ‘conservator’ of the child. To gain conservatorship, you must first prove the parents are unfit. A parent may be unfit to continue caring for the child if they:
- Have or will have their parental rights terminated
- Are incarcerated
- Were deemed incompetent due to mental illness or addiction; or
- Left the child with the grandparents for at least six months
However, for a grandparent to be able to gain custody:
- At least one of the child’s biological or adoptive parents must still have parental rights to the child
Even if you have actual care, control, and possession of the child for at least six months, you will need to be a conservator of the child to be able to:
- Enroll the child in school
- Add the child to your insurance
- Take the child to the doctor
A grandparent may also take custody of a grandchild if the parents have passed away. However, the court is primarily concerned with doing what is in the child’s best interest. The court will weigh a grandparent’s petition against that of any other family member seeking custody. If the grandparent is an older person living in a nursing home, it is improbable the court will grant them custody even if they are the only option for placement with a relative.
What Evidence Will I Need?
When suing for grandparent visitation, you often have little more than personal testimony. You may, however, be able to ask for court-ordered interviews and studies to assess the child’s physical and emotional welfare. It is important to note that this must provide ‘clear and convincing evidence’ that grandparent visitation or conservatorship is in the child’s best interest.
Can a Biological Grandparent Obtain Visitation with an Adopted Child?
When a non-stepparent adopts a child, the rights of the biological parents are permanently severed. Unfortunately, grandparent rights come through parental rights. If a non-stepparent adopts the child, the grandparents are no longer legally entitled to visitation.
Do I Need a Family Law Attorney?
If you seek visitation privileges or conservatorship over a grandchild, it is crucial to speak with an experienced family law attorney. They will be familiar with the requirements to file and can help you build your case. A skilled family law attorney can also help you through the mediation process to hopefully negotiate a favorable visitation schedule.