In certain situations, Texas grandparents have a right to seek visitation time with their grandchildren or even legal custody.
Grandparents today are typically more involved in their children's lives than ever before. According to Today, 22 percent of grandparents see their grandkids daily, while 42 percent see them weekly. One in four parents entrust the care of their children to grandparents at least once a month. These close connections offer myriad benefits for grandparents and grandchildren, but unfortunately, they also can cause complicated situations when parents divorce or undergo other serious life changes.
In these situations, many grandparents find their time with their grandchildren restricted or even cut off completely. Fortunately, Texas law recognizes grandparents' rights to custody and visitation. Grandparents may be awarded visitation time or even custody of their grandchildren if they can prove that they meet certain legal criteria.
Visitation time awards
Unfortunately, grandparents do not enjoy an absolute right to visitation time with their grandchildren. State law first recognizes the right of parents to make decisions regarding their children, such as deciding how much visitation with grandparents to allow. Under state law, however, grandparents may request visitation rights, even if visitation is against the wishes of the child's parents, in the following situations:
- The grandchild's parents have gotten divorced.
- The grandchild has spent at least six months living with the grandparents.
- The relationship between the grandchild and his or her parent has legally been terminated.
- The grandchild's parent has died, been sent to prison or been found unfit.
- The grandchild has suffered abuse or neglect at the hands of a parent.
A family law court may award grandparents visitation rights if the court finds that this arrangement is in the best interests of the child. The court may consider various subjective factors when making this decision. These include the child's needs and preferences, the relationship that the child and grandparents enjoy and the benefits of a continued relationship.
Child custody determinations
In some cases, grandparents who have played a significant role in raising their grandchildren may benefit from seeking legal custody. According to USA Today, such arrangements are becoming increasingly common. At the time of the 2010 Census, grandparents across America were bringing up 4.9 million grandkids. This figure represents almost twice the number of children that grandparents were raising just 10 years before.
Obtaining custody can offer various benefits for grandparents. Grandparents who are awarded legal custody gain the right to make important financial, medical and educational decisions on the grandchild's behalf. Seeking custody may also be advisable if the grandchild's parents are no longer fit as guardians.
To seek custody, grandparents must meet a number of criteria, unless the child's parents or court-appointed conservator agree that the grandparents should receive custody. Grandparents must show that the grandchild lived with them for at least six months, or they must be named the child's guardians. Alternately, grandparents must prove that harm is resulting from the child's current living situation.
Securing custody or even visitation rights is often a challenge for grandparents, since state law does not hold grandparents' rights above the rights of the child's parents. This can make the assistance of a family law attorney advisable for grandparents who want to protect their rights and their relationships with their grandchildren.