On behalf of Mark Childress
The circumstances in which a grandparent can get a visitation order from the court are fairly narrow, but possible in some situations.
An Internet search quickly brings up many sources about the value to both grandchildren and grandparents of their relationship. It is understandable how a grandparent who is denied contact with a grandchild might be upset and concerned.
For example, a grandchild's development and health can be positively impacted by a healthy relationship with a grandparent. A grandparent may be a bridge to cultural and ethnic heritage and to extended family. When there is turmoil or dysfunction in the grandchild's immediate family, a grandparent may provide needed stability and even physical care.
Detailed Texas laws exist about these legal issues, but an overarching limitation on grandparent rights is the constitutional right of a parent to decide how to care for and control his or her child. That being said, the other primary goal of courts is to issue orders that are in the best interest of children.
Possession and access
In Texas, visitation with a child is referred to as possession of or access to that child. Texas statutes allow a grandparent to file a suit for grandchild visitation if the grandparent can show that it would "significantly impair the child's physical health or emotional well-being" not to have contact with the grandparent. This must be shown by overcoming a presumption that a parent acts in his or her son or daughter's best interest.
The court can order reasonable possession or access for a biological or adoptive grandparent in narrow circumstances - if all of these are found:
- At least one parent still has parental rights.
- Denial of the request would significantly impair the child's health or well-being.
- The parent who is the adult child of the petitioning grandparent is in jail, is incompetent, is dead or does not have "actual or court-ordered possession of or access to the child."
The grandparent may not file the suit for access or possession if both of the biological parents have died, had their parental rights terminated, or legally given up interest in the child or relinquished their parental rights and the child has been adopted or an adoption is pending by someone other than a stepparent.
Seek legal advice
Any grandparent in Texas with questions about visitation should speak with an experienced family lawyer. In more extreme situations, a grandparent might actually want to try to get custody or guardianship of a grandchild, or even to adopt him or her. Legal counsel can also help with those questions.