Grandparents’ Rights in Texas: What Are You Entitled to in Custody Disputes Involving Your Grandchild?

Few people truly understand the strength of the bond that grandparents and their grandchildren share. A grandparent’s love for their grandchild is unfailing and they always want to protect them, keep them in their lives, and cherish the time that they have together. You understand because you are a grandparent who is concerned for your grandchild’s safety and well-being and you are frustrated that they are not receiving the proper care and attention that they need. You love your grandchild very much and have been in their lives for a long time. There are circumstances in your life right now that make it necessary to ensure that you have legal rights with respect to your grandchild.

Unfortunately, we see in many cases the necessity for grandparents to step in and fight for the best interest of their grandchildren. There are several circumstances which can lead to this such as a parent dying, a parent abandoning their child(ren) with grandparents or another party, a parent consuming alcohol or ingesting controlled substances. The reality is the reasons grandparents intervene in these cases are different with respect to each case. However, grandparents do not have automatic rights in Texas and so there are steps and one must go through the legal channels to obtain these rights.

In the state of Texas, we are seeing more and more grandparents wanting either custody of their grandchildren or at least visitation with their grandchildren. And, in some cases this is possible. But, it is important to know the law and be informed so that when you hire your attorney at Guest & Gray, P.C. in Kaufman County, you will know what to expect when it comes time to file petition in your case.

The Texas Family Code places limitations on who is entitled to file a petition in suits involving children as well as on those who are entitled to intervene in these suits. This is because in order to even file a suit, you must have what is called “standing.” This means that you have to be able to prove to the court that you have a stake in this matter and that you have a sufficient connection. In suits involving children, this means you must either be a biological or adoptive grandparent of your grandchild.

In seeking custody, there are two types of conservatorship: either managing or possessory. For a managing conservator (MC), the child lives with this adult and MCs can receive child support and have the most rights with respect to the child. A possessory conservator has limited rights and is entitled to visitation with the child.

If you are seeking to be managing conservator, you can do so through an original case or through intervening in a pending one as long as one of these circumstances is present: (1) you’ve had actual care, control and possession of the child for at least 6 months and this hasn’t ended more than 90 days before the suit; (2) if the child and the adult who has present custody of the child (parent, guardian, managing conservator) has lived with you for at least 6 months and this didn’t end more than 90 days before the suit and the adult who has present custody of the child is now deceased; (3) the grandchild’s present circumstances would significantly impair the grandchild’s physical health or emotional development; or (4) both the parents, surviving parent, guardian or managing conservator filed the suit or consented to the suit.

If you are seeking visitation as a possessory conservator with your grandchild, then you may do so if either (1) or (2) above is present OR if (3) you’ve been in the child’s life and had contact with them for a long time AND the court finds that it would not be in the best interest of the children to appoint one parent as sole managing conservator or both parents as joint managing conservators.

Additionally, the Texas Family Code has created a special niche for grandparents who want visitation with their grandchildren and this is called “grandparent access” which basically means the grandparent is not named as an actual conservator of the child but is rather granted, in their own right, visitation. If this is something that you are seeking, then we must show three things: when you ask for access, at least one of the biological or adoptive parents hasn’t had their parental rights terminated, and that if you didn’t have access to your grandchild, this would significantly impair your grandchild’s physical health or emotional well-being, and you must be a parent of a parent of your grandchild. In addition to these three requirements you must have at least one of these circumstances: either (1) a parent has been incarcerated in jail or prison within 3 months of the case; or (2) a parent has been found by the court to be incompetent; or (3) a parent is dead; or (4) the parent doesn’t have actual or court-ordered possession of or access to the child.

Understandably, this is a lot of information to take in. Grandparents’ rights in Texas have changed over the last few years with the addition of new legislation and with the issuance of new Supreme Court opinions. It is important to know your relationship with your grandchild and be informed with respect to keeping your grandchild in your life.

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