Grandparents’ Rights in Texas

Last updated on: July 27, 2023

The bond between grandparents and their grandchildren is a special and cherished one, filled with love, support, and valuable life lessons. However, circumstances may arise where your access to your grandchildren is restricted or denied. In such situations, understanding your legal rights and seeking the assistance of experienced legal counsel becomes crucial. 

If you find yourself in a situation where you are being denied access to your grandchildren or facing obstacles in maintaining a meaningful relationship with them, it is vital to take action. Consulting an experienced Texas child custody attorney can help in protecting your rights and the child’s best interests and ensure that you can establish a meaningful relationship with your grandchildren. 

Grandparents’ rights cases can be emotionally challenging and legally intricate. Our team of skilled Houston child custody attorneys at The Law Office of Whitney L. Thompson can assess your situation, explain the legal options available, and provide personalized advice tailored to your unique circumstances. Contact us today at (281) 214-0173 to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.

Texas Laws Governing Grandparents’ Rights

In recent years, grandparents’ rights have become a topic of increasing interest in the United States. This developing area of law focuses on the legal rights and recognition of grandparents to maintain relationships with their grandchildren. In Texas, grandparents may have legal rights to visitation, custody, and adoption of their grandchildren. This article will explore the scope of grandparents’ rights in Texas, the legal framework that governs these rights, and the differences between grandparents’ rights and parental rights.

Definition and Scope of Grandparents’ Rights

Grandparents’ rights refer to the legal rights that grandparents have concerning their grandchildren. These rights come into play particularly when the relationship between the grandparents and their grandchildren becomes strained due to issues like parental divorce, separation, incapacity, death, incarceration, or other circumstances that impact the family structure. In Texas, the scope of grandparents’ rights can include visitation rights, custody rights, and the right to adopt their grandchildren in certain situations.

Visitation rights allow grandparents to have regular, scheduled visits with their grandchildren. In Texas, obtaining visitation rights requires showing the court that the child’s physical or emotional well-being would be significantly impaired if the child did not have contact with their grandparents. This can be a difficult standard to meet, and the process of petitioning for visitation rights as a grandparent can be complex if the child’s parents are in opposition to the visitation.

Custody rights involve the legal responsibility of raising a grandchild, including providing for their basic needs like food, shelter, education, and medical care. In some cases, grandparents may seek custodial rights when their grandchild’s parents are unable to provide for the child’s welfare, such as in cases of abuse or neglect.

Lastly, adoption rights allow grandparents to adopt their grandchildren in cases where the child’s parents are no longer able or willing to care for them. This could occur when the parents have lost their parental rights due to abuse or neglect or in cases where the parents have passed away or have been incarcerated.

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The state of Texas has set up a legal framework to address the various scenarios grandparents may encounter. The Texas Family Code sets forth the basic laws that govern grandparents’ rights.

In Texas, the legal system does prioritize the rights of the parents and the best interest of the child over the grandparents’. However, certain circumstances may warrant equitable consideration in favor of grandparents. The Texas Family Code contains specific provisions addressing the rights of grandparents to maintain relationships with their grandchildren, including visitation and custody rights. 

If you are interested in asserting your legal rights to adoption, visitation, and conservatorship over your grandchildren, it is important to consult a skilled Houston child custody attorney to ensure that your rights are protected and that your and your grandchild’s best interests are represented.

Definition of Standing in Grandparents’ Rights

In terms of family law in Texas, grandparents’ standing refers to the legal recognition and rights that grandparents may have in relation to their grandchildren. It determines the extent to which grandparents can seek legal remedies, such as visitation or custody when it comes to their relationships with their grandchildren.

In Texas, grandparents’ standing is governed by the Texas Family Code. This code recognizes that grandparents may play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren and acknowledges that maintaining a relationship with grandparents can be beneficial to the well-being of the children involved.

To establish grandparents’ standing in Texas, the law requires that the grandparents meet specific criteria. Generally, grandparents can seek standing if at least one of the following conditions is met:

  • The child’s parent has been incarcerated, found incompetent by a court, or has died.
  • The child’s parents are divorced.
  • The child is determined to have been abused or neglected by their parents
  • The parent-child relationship has been terminated by a court order
  • The grandparent has lived with the child for at least six months, with the agreement of the child’s parent(s) being terminated or overruled.

Once grandparents’ standing is established, they may be able to pursue legal actions for visitation or even custody of their grandchildren. However, it’s important to note that grandparents’ rights are not absolute, and the court’s primary consideration is always the best interests of the child.

Family Code on Grandparents’ Rights

The Texas Family Code primarily governs grandparent rights through two specific provisions: visitation rights under Section 153.431 to Section 153.434 and conservatorship (custody) under Section 102.004.

Visitation rights, specifically referred to in the law as “possession and access,” are defined as the times and conditions under which a non-parent, such as a grandparent, can spend time with a child or maintain contact with them. These rights can be granted to grandparents who can demonstrate that such access is in the best interest of the child.

Conservatorship or custody rights pertain to who has the legal authority to make decisions related to the child’s upbringing. While parents are primarily considered the natural conservators of their child, grandparents can petition for conservatorship in certain circumstances.

Visitation Rights and the Best Interest of the Child

In Texas, grandparents seeking visitation rights must file a petition in court, and the burden of proof lies with the grandparent to demonstrate to the court that denying visitation would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional well-being. The court may grant visitation rights if it determines that such access is in the best interest of the child. Factors that the court may consider include:

  • The relationship between the grandparent and the child.
  • The grandparent’s ability to provide and care for the child.
  • The willingness of the grandparent to support the relationship between the child and their parents.
  • Any history of abuse, neglect, or substance abuse by the grandparent.
  • The preference of the child, if they are old enough to express a reasonable preference.
  • The emotional and physical needs of the child.
  • The stability of the grandparent’s home environment.

Custody Rights and the Factors Considered

Grandparents can seek custody, or conservatorship, of their grandchildren under specific circumstances. However, the court prioritizes the rights of the parents and only grants custody to grandparents in situations where the child’s parents are deemed unfit or unable to care for the child. The grandparents can file for custody as part of a lawsuit affecting the parent-child relationship or as part of a suit affecting a pre-existing custody order.

When determining whether to grant conservatorship to grandparents, the court considers several factors, including:

  • The ability of the grandparent to care for the child’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs.
  • The stability of the grandparent’s home environment.
  • The relationship between the child and the grandparent.
  • Any history of abuse, neglect, or substance abuse by the grandparent.
  • The potential risk of harm to the child if they were to remain with their parents.

Adoption and its Impact on Grandparents’ Rights

In cases of adoption, a grandparent’s rights are significantly impacted. Once a child is adopted by a new family, the legal rights of the grandparents connected to the biological parents are generally terminated. This means that grandparents lose the right to visitation or custody of their grandchild.

However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as in cases where a step-parent adopts the child. In such instances, the biological grandparents related to the non-terminating parent may still be able to maintain their rights. Additionally, “kinship” adoptions, wherein the guardianship is granted to a family member–including grandparents–do not terminate the legal relationship between the grandparent and the child.

Consequently, for a grandparent to formally adopt their grandchild, the following requirements must be addressed:

  1. Eligibility and Consent: The grandparent must meet certain eligibility criteria to adopt their grandchild. If the grandchild is 12 years old or older, their consent may also be required for the adoption to take place.
  2. Termination of Parental Rights: Before a grandparent can adopt their grandchild, the parental rights of the child’s biological parents must be terminated. This can occur through voluntary termination if the parents agree to the adoption or through involuntary termination if the court determines that it is in the child’s best interests to be adopted by their grandparent.
  3. Home Study: The grandparent will need to undergo a home study conducted by a licensed child-placing agency or a social worker. The purpose of the home study is to assess the grandparent’s suitability and ability to provide a stable and loving home for the child.
  4. Petition for Adoption: The grandparent, with the assistance of an attorney, will need to file a petition for adoption with the appropriate court. The petition will include information about the grandparent, the grandchild, and the reasons for the adoption.
  5. Background Checks and Investigations: As part of the adoption process, the grandparent and other household members may be required to undergo background checks and investigations to ensure the safety and well-being of the child.
  6. Adoption Hearing: Once the necessary paperwork is filed, an adoption hearing will be scheduled. During the hearing, the grandparent will present their case, and the court will review the information provided to determine if the adoption is in the best interests of the child.
  7. Finalizing the Adoption: If the court approves the adoption, a finalization hearing will take place. At this hearing, the court will issue a final decree of adoption, legally establishing the grandparent as the child’s adoptive parent. The grandparent will then assume all legal rights and responsibilities as a parent.

While Texas law generally prioritizes the rights of parents over grandparents, there are circumstances in which grandparents can maintain and preserve their rights to visitation and custody of their grandchildren. These provisions in the Texas Family Code allow grandparents to remain a part of their grandchild’s life when it is in the best interest of the child.

Filing for Grandparents’ Rights in Texas

In Texas, grandparents have the right to request access to or custody (conservatorship) of their grandchildren in certain situations. The process involves filing for grandparents’ rights and complying with the Texas Family Code to establish what visitation or custody rights they seek.

Eligibility Criteria for Filing

In Texas, grandparents are eligible to file for visitation or custody under specific circumstances, as outlined in the Texas Family Code. To be eligible to file, the grandparent must meet one or more of the following conditions:

  • Parental Rights: At least one biological or adoptive parent of the child continues to retain parental rights. Or the child has not yet been adopted by a third party.
  • Overcoming Presumption: The grandparent must overcome the presumption that a parent acts in the best interest of their child. This can be done by demonstrating that denying the grandparent possession or access to the child would significantly harm the child’s physical health or emotional well-being.
  • Relationship to the Child: The grandparent must be the biological or adoptive parent of one of the child’s parents. Additionally, the parent of the child must meet one of the following conditions:
    • They have been incarcerated within the three months before filing the petition.
    • They have been declared legally incompetent by a court.
    • They have passed away.
    • They do not currently have physical or court-ordered possession or access to the child.
Eligibility Criteria For Filing Grandparents’ Rights in Texas Details
Parental Rights At least one biological or adoptive parent of the child continues to retain parental rights. Or the child has not yet been adopted by a third party.
Overcoming Presumption The grandparent must overcome the presumption that a parent acts in the best interest of their child. This can be done by demonstrating that denying the grandparent possession or access to the child would significantly harm the child’s physical health or emotional well-being.
Relationship to the Child The grandparent must be the biological or adoptive parent of one of the child’s parents. Additionally, the parent of the child must meet one of the following conditions: They have been incarcerated within the three months before filing the petition. They have been declared legally incompetent by a court. They have passed away. They do not currently have physical or court-ordered possession or access to the child.

Impact on Family Dynamics and Relationships

Fighting against grandparents’ rights in court can be a challenging emotional process for all parties involved, especially the children. It is essential to consider the potential impact on family dynamics and relationships before pursuing legal action.

In many cases, the dispute over grandparents’ rights can create resentment and animosity in the family. Parents may feel betrayed by the grandparents seeking legal action, while grandparents may perceive the parents’ opposition as an attempt to cut them out of their lives. The strain on family relationships may be especially challenging for the children, who may feel pressured to choose sides or lose access to supportive and loving relationships with their grandparents.

Before taking action to oppose grandparents’ rights, parents should consider the potential emotional and psychological consequences for their family. In some cases, engaging in mediation or family counseling can help address concerns and resolve disputes without resorting to litigation.

In conclusion, it is crucial to carefully weigh the decision to oppose grandparents’ rights in Texas. Parents should consider their rights and interests, the legal strategies available, and the potential impact on family relationships before deciding on the best course of action.

Seeking the Help of an Experienced Texas Child Custody Attorney

In Texas, grandparents’ rights can be a complex and nuanced area of family law. Recognizing the significance of the bond between grandparents and their grandchildren, the legal system offers avenues for grandparents to protect and maintain their relationships. However, it is crucial to navigate this legal landscape with the support of experienced legal professionals who are knowledgeable in handling grandparents’ rights cases with skill and compassion.

If you are a grandparent in Texas facing challenges or concerns regarding your rights and access to your grandchildren, do not hesitate to seek the assistance of a knowledgeable child custody attorney. Our team of legal professionals at The Law Office of Whitney L. Thompson can provide the necessary guidance to navigate the legal complexities, help you understand your rights under Texas law, and advocate for your and your grandchildren’s best interests. Contact us today at (281) 214-0173 to schedule a consultation and to learn more about our services.

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