Houston Grandparents’ Rights Attorney
It is not surprising for grandparents to want to play a role in their grandchildren’s lives. Children can benefit from frequent and meaningful contact with their grandparents, and parents frequently want to encourage this relationship for their children’s sake. Some parents even rely heavily on their parents to take care of the grandkids for a substantial portion of time, especially if the parents are young, unmarried or dealing with difficult circumstances in their own lives.
However, this is not always the case. Some parents for one reason or another do not promote a relationship between their children and the kids’ grandparents. Both parents may be shutting out the grandparents over issues of religion or control, or a single custodial parent may be keeping the parents of the former spouse away out of spite, dislike or fears the grandparents will try to alienate the custodial parent. What rights, if any, do grandparents have in these situations?
Houston grandparent’s rights attorney Maria S. Lowry provides insightful, skilled and compassionate assistance to grandparents seeking access to and time with their grandchildren. With a full understanding of Texas family law and a deep commitment to providing children with the best environment, the Law Office of Maria S. Lowry will work with you to find a solution that works best for all parties involved.
Grandparents’ right to visitation in Texas
Texas law allows a grandparent to file a lawsuit for possession or access to a grandchild. This law presumes that the parent is acting in the best interest of the child when denying access, and the burden is on the grandparent to prove otherwise. It’s not enough for the grandparent to show that access would benefit the child. Instead, the grandparent has to be able to prove that denying access would “significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional well-being.” This is a difficult burden to meet and may require the grandparent to get expert testimony and have the grandchild evaluated by a healthcare professional. Hiring an experienced Texas family law attorney will be crucial to building and presenting a successful case that produces the evidence necessary to meet this challenging burden of proof.
If the grandparents’ do show harm to the child if access is denied, courts may order reasonable possession or access if any of the following situations apply to the grandchild’s parent (the child of the grandparent):
- The parent has been incarcerated during the three-month period preceding the filing of the petition
- The parent has been found to be incompetent by a court
- The parent is deceased
- The parent does not have actual or court-ordered possession of or access to the child
Grandparents cannot sue for possession or access if both of the parents have died, had their parental rights terminated, or relinquished their parental rights, or if the grandchild has been or is being adopted by a person other than the child’s stepparent.
Texas grandparent custody rights
Some grandparents take a very strong role in raising the grandchildren because the parents are unwilling or unable to fulfill this role. At some point, the grandparents may feel it is best for the child if they take on full legal custody (conservatorship).
When one parent sues the other parent for custody, visitation, child support or other issues affecting the parent-child relationship, this is known in Texas as a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship, or SAPCR. In order for a grandparent to bring a SAPCR suit, the grandparent must have had actual care, control and possession of the child for at least six months and within the last 90 days before filing the lawsuit. Recently, the Texas Supreme Court held that this law does not require the grandparent to have exclusive control or legal control over the child, or that the parents have abandoned their duty or control over the child. Even if the parent and child were living together with the grandparents during this period, so long as the grandparents took care of the child and were responsible for the child during this time, they can still bring a SAPCR suit for custody.
Even without having had possession of their grandchildren for six months, grandparents can still file for custody if they can prove that the parent is unfit and presents a situation that is damaging to the child.
Although courts start with a presumption in favor of the parent for custody, the best interest of the child is still the standard the judge will use to base any decision on. In the face of any evidence of family violence or if the parents voluntarily relinquished their custodial rights and duties for a year or more, the court is more likely to grant custody to the grandparents.
Get the Advice and Help You Need from a Skilled and Compassionate Houston Grandparents’ Rights Lawyer
Houston family lawyer Maria Lowry builds her practice around the principle of working collaboratively with couples and families to help them communicate, understand each other, and come to lasting, workable agreements on the issues which confront them. Although willing and able to go to court when needed, Ms. Lowry knows that a negotiated settlement is much more likely to meet the needs of all parties involved and be implemented voluntarily and effectively. If you need help regarding grandparents’ rights to visitation or custody in Houston, call the Law Office of Maria S. Lowry at 713-850-8859 to speak with an experienced and dedicated Texas grandparent rights attorney.