Grandparent’s Visitation Rights

           My grandpa was a stubborn man with little patience and no filter. He taught me how to be resilient. About 5 years before my grandpa passed away, he had both of his legs amputated. He was determined to get prosthetic legs and walk again. He would wake up every morning, swing his stubs out to the side of the bed and put on each prosthetic leg. If he saw someone being a couch potato, he would yell out, “What a waste of a pair of legs!” After many falls, he was able to walk again and gained his independence. He inspired others, especially me, to never give up. It’s a lesson I have carried into adulthood.

           Grandparents can play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren, if given the chance. Unfortunately, grandparents can lose this opportunity with their grandkids when their child goes through a divorce and that parent has limited time with their child or when a grandparent’s relationship with their own child becomes estranged. You will find yourself in a situation where you have to negotiate visits with one or both of your grandchild’s parents.

           In Texas, grandparents may petition the court for visitation with their grandchildren based on the best interest of their grandchildren. There are certain statutory requirements that must be proven before the Court will award a formal visitation schedule to grandparents. Your petition should be accompanied by an affidavit, detailing how you meet those requirements. First, the grandparent must prove that one of their grandchild’s biological or adoptive parents has not had their rights terminated at the time of their lawsuit. Second, grandparents must prove that their grandchild’s physical health or emotional well-being will be significantly impaired if they are not allowed to exercise visitation. Third, grandparents will demonstrate they have no access to their grandchildren or are constantly denied visitation. Fourth, the grandparent must show their grandchild’s parent has been incarcerated, judicially declared incompetent, died or does not have court ordered possession or access.

            Normally, it is presumed parents alone have the right to make decisions on behalf of their children, including who gets to visit the children. It is not an easy task to prove that their grandchild will be significantly impaired without a grandparent’s consistent access to their life. Grandparents should showcase the nature of their relationship with their grandchildren and how involved they have been in the past. Moreover, grandparents must show that the parents are unfit to determine what’s in their grandchild’s best interest or that the grandchildren will be unsafe in the parent’s sole care due to abuse or neglect, mental illness, or drug abuse.

            In severe cases, these conditions may rise to the level where grandparents can petition for custody. The Texas Family Code has different requirements for grandparents seeking custody of their grandchildren. A parent who recognizes they need help raising their children, may voluntarily consent to share custody or visitation with the grandparents. Cases where grandparents have been in possession of their grandchild for at least six months, acting as the primary caretaker, may also ask for custody. In situations where both parents have died, grandparents may also petition for custody.

           If their grandchild gets adopted by someone who is not a stepparent or if their son or daughter gets their parental rights terminated, then grandparents will be denied custody and visitation. At that point, a grandparent’s connection to their grandchild will be legally cut off by the court.

           Every situation is unique. You should seek the advice of a Texas family attorney to determine your options in keeping your grandchildren in your life. Call today for a free consultation 512-212-7851.

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