Grandparent rights generally refer to court-ordered contact between grandparents and their grandchildren. These rights may involve grandparent custody of minor children, visitation rights, an alternative form of access, support obligations, or some combination of these parental-type benefits and responsibilities.
There is no straightforward answer to whether grandparents have rights in any given state because the issue of grandparent rights is contingent upon a family’s unique circumstances. Generally speaking, the government more broadly protects parents’ rights than grandparents’ rights. This is because the Supreme Court has ruled (perhaps most notably in Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000)) that fit parents have a Constitutional right to oversee the care, custody, and control of their children.
Practically speaking, the state’s interest in protecting the rights of parents means that if a child’s parents are “fit” – and no other exception applies to the circumstances in question – that child’s parents have the right to refuse a grandparent’s request or demand for access to their child. With that said, there are circumstances under which grandparents may lawfully assume custody of a grandchild or successfully petition Texas family courts for visitation rights.
Texas Grandparents Rights Lawyer
If you are a grandparent who desires visitation with your grandchildren or who seeks custody, contact Horak Law. Although enjoying a close relationship with grandchildren is not always easy following a divorce of the parent’s children, Horak Law is dedicated to achieving the best outcome possible for our clients. We understand that in too many cases, grandparents are overlooked.
Call (713) 225-8000 today to schedule a free consultation. Horak Law has two locations in Houston and The Woodlands, but attorney Horak also accepts clients in Harris County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, Waller County, Fort Bend County, and Liberty County, Texas.
If a child is in the care and custody of at least one fit parent, grandparents generally do not have any right to infringe upon that custodial arrangement. However, if a grandchild’s custodial parent has passed away, become incapacitated due to injury or illness, been incarcerated, or had their parental rights temporarily revoked or permanently terminated, a fit grandparent may be in a position to assume custody of their grandchild.
Under such circumstances, judges must resolve competing child custody claims according to the best interests of the child standard. Accordingly, all family court judges are bound to evaluate the best interests of a given child and award custody to those who are best suited to honor and advance those interests.
Grandparents interested in assuming temporary or permanent custody of a grandchild should strongly consider speaking with an experienced family law attorney who knows grandparent custody cases. It bears repeating that if a child’s fit parent already has custody of that child, it is improbable that a judge will allow a grandparent to interfere with that relationship. However, if neither parent is fit and willing to care for a child’s needs, a grandparent’s custody petition may be successful.
When grandparents seek visitation of their grandchildren, their petitions are usually rejected if the child’s fit parents object to this request and no legally recognized exception to the parental deference rule applies. With that said, if all fit parents who remain in a child’s life agree to such visitation, all that the parents and grandparents need to do to formalize this arrangement is to speak with an attorney so that proper paperwork can be filed with the court.
Additionally, there are nuanced circumstances under which grandparents may be awarded visitation rights in Texas, even if a fit parent objects to that petition. Most notably, if the affected child has lived with the petitioning grandparent for at least six months, a grandparent may be in a solid position to secure visitation rights regardless of a fit parent’s objection. Additionally, if a child’s parents have divorced, the court may be more inclined to grant reasonable visitation rights over the objection of one of the child’s parents.
It is also worth noting that grandparents may be awarded visitation rights if at least one of their grandchild’s parents is dealing with some qualifying – and challenging – circumstances. For example, a grandparent’s petition for visitation may be honored if a child’s parent has passed away or has been incarcerated. Similarly, if a parent has been deemed unfit or incompetent, a grandparent may have substantial grounds to argue for visitation rights. If a parent has been found abusive or neglectful, they may also weaken their ability to enforce their parental deference defense. Finally, if a child’s parent has had their parental rights temporarily suspended or permanently terminated, a grandparent may be in a solid position to win visitation rights.
Note that if a grandchild has been adopted by someone who is not a stepparent, that child’s grandparents may not petition for visitation. Special rules apply to adoption cases.
A Word About Child Support
Sometimes, when a grandparent acts as a grandchild’s custodial parent, they may have questions about child support. Grandparents acting as custodial parents or guardians have a right to collect child support, just as a child’s biological or adoptive custodial parent does. Under Texas law, a child’s biological or adoptive parents are legally and financially obligated to support their child unless they have voluntarily surrendered their parental rights or a court has terminated them over their objections. As a result, custodial grandparents and grandparents serving as guardians may apply for child support from their grandchild’s parent or parents, depending upon their family’s unique situation.
Any grandparent interested in learning more about their rights under the law – concerning child custody, child support, and visitation can connect with an attorney for personalized legal guidance and client-specific feedback. All too often, grandparents attempt to navigate their questions and concerns alone. Working with an attorney is usually a far more efficient and practical approach.
Grandparents’ Rights to Visitation and Access – This resource, made available by the Texas State Law Library, provides answers to FAQs and links to guides from TexasLawHelp.org concerning grandparent petitions related to visitation and custody.
Grandparents’ Page – The office of the Texas State Attorney General provides information for resources such as relevant hotlines and helpful websites.
Houston Grandparents Rights Attorney | Harris County, TX
The laws regarding grandparents’ rights are complex and frequently dependent upon the unique facts of each case. If you are a grandparent seeking visitation for your grandchild, Texas family law attorney Matthew Horak at Horak Law will review the facts of the situation and provide you with legal guidance.
Call (713) 225-8000 to arrange a free consultation today. Horak Law has offices in The Woodlands and Houston, TX