AN INTRODUCTION TO TEXAS GRANDPARENTS’ VISITATION RIGHTS

Grandparents play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren. NBC’s Today show presented evidence that 54% of parents believe that their children spent more time with grandparents than they did when they were young. An estimated 22% of grandparents see their grandchildren on a daily basis, and one in 10 sets of parents rely on grandparents for daily child care.

With such close connections in place, it can be distressing and painful when grandparents and grandchildren are cut off from each other due to divorcing parents or other major life changes. Fortunately, Texas recognizes the rights of extended family members – which includes grandparents – to visit and even receive custody of their grandchildren if certain criteria are met.

Parental Presumption

Texas grandparents are allowed to visit their grandchildren at any time – unless the parents object. Problems can potentially arise because there is no automatic right of visitation. State laws have a presumption that parents will act in the child’s best interests, and if a parent objects to a grandparent’s visitation request, it presents an obstacle that may require a court order to overcome.

Petitioning for Visitation or Custody

The Texas Family Code was recently amended to expand the category of persons who can apply for custody of a child. It now consists of:

  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Grandparents
  • Great-grandparents
  • Aunts and uncles related by blood (as opposed to marriage)

The Family Code states that the court may order that a grandparent receive reasonable custody of or access to his or her grandchild if the following has happened:

  • At least one biological or adoptive parent has not had their parental rights terminated;
  • The grandparent can prove that denial of custody or visitation would significantly harm the child’s physical and emotional health and well-being;
  • The parent has died or:
    • been in jail or prison for at least three months preceding the filing of the petition OR
    • Been declared incompetent by the court OR
    • does not have actual or court-ordered custody of or access to the child.

The court can also authorize grandparent visitation if the child has lived with the grandparent for a minimum of six months. If the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services terminates parental rights, grandparents may seek custody provided that they file suit within 90 days of the termination date.

Children have a right to a long and fulfilling relationship with their grandparents. If you live in Texas and have questions about your rights as a grandparent to custody or visitation, contact us today. We will gladly listen to you, review your circumstances, and suggest a course of action that fits.

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