Grandparents can play a crucial role in the lives of their grandchildren, forming bonds that are just as strong as the ones between parent and child. Every state has some type of grandparents’ visitation laws, and Texas is no different.
Grandparents can even ask the court for custody of their grandchildren if they want to protect their well-being.Why Would a Grandparent File a Lawsuit for Child Custody or Visitation in Texas?
In Texas, grandparents have limited rights to their grandchildren. Under normal circumstances, this is not a problem—grandparents have their children to take care of their grandkids. But there are instances when parents neglect, abuse, or even abandon their children. In such cases, the grandparents may take it upon themselves to seek custody and raise their grandchildren on their own. And when the grandparents do not have a great relationship with their children, they have no choice but to file a lawsuit for visitation and/or custody.How Can Grandparents File for Custody and/or Visitation?
According to the Texas Family Code, the court can authorize grandparents’ visitation and/or custody if it is deemed to be in the best interest of the child. The following conditions must also exist for this arrangement to occur.
- The child’s parents are divorced;
- The parent has passed away;
- The parent abused or neglected the child/children;
- The parent has been convicted of a felony and sentenced to prison;
- The parent is found to be incompetent;
- The parent-child relationship has been terminated by a court order;
- The child has stayed with the grandparent under the same roof for at least 6 months.
It is worth nothing that visitation statutes in Texas do not award grandparents an absolute right to visitation. Likewise, grandparents do not get permanent custody over their grandchildren at all times. For example, when a parent with a substance abuse problem has been successfully rehabilitated, the grandparents will have to return guardianship of their grandkids.
To file a lawsuit for child custody, the grandparent(s) must provide sufficient evidence that the child’s mental and physical well-being would be “significantly” impaired without intervention on the part of the grandparent.How Can a Grandparent Prove “Significant” Impairment?
The sensitive nature of grandparent’s rights and visitation/custody means the court often has to take its time and review cases based on factual evidence. While there are no hard and fast rules to prove that a grandparent’s absence in a child’s life would lead to “significant” impairment, there are a few ways for grandparents to bring the court over to their side.
- You can seek the endorsement of a mental health professional, such as the child’s school guidance counsellor or therapist, who can provide objective recommendations on how to safeguard the mental well-being of the child;
- You can prove in court that your grandchild’s parent/s have major issues, such as substance abuse, a history of neglect and abuse, and the inability to raise their child/children in a safe environment.
- You can have another child testify in court that you are a loving grandparent and deserve visitation/custody over your grandchildren.
In any case, the court recognizes the importance of grandparents in the lives of children. But the court is also aware that litigating over grandparents’ and parents’ rights can poison the family relationship now and for the generations to come. It is for this reason that getting the advice of a competent Austin family law attorney, one who is aware of the changing nature of grandparents’ rights, is of the utmost importance.
If you have questions about grandparents’ rights and how to seek child custody and/or visitation as a grandparent in Texas, talk to Austin family law attorney Daniella Lyttle. Contact the Lyttle Law Firm to schedule a consultation with our legal team.