Can Grandparents File for Custody in Texas?
Typically, a party battling for custody will be one of the parents involved–either the birth parents or someone alleging that they are the biological parent. Grandparents, however, can be just as important to a child’s life. Many grandparents wish to be a part of their grandchildren’s life, and under certain circumstances, they may even wish to step in and take over the parental role. In Texas, do grandparents ever have custody rights? If so, under what circumstances? Read on for answers to these questions. If you are facing custody disputes or other family law matters in Harris County, call a seasoned Houston child custody lawyer for advice and representation.
Grandparent Custody With Consent of Parents
The most straightforward path for grandparents to take custody of children is for the adult parents to voluntarily relinquish custody to the grandparents. The parents or guardians can agree that the child’s best interests would be served by having the children live with the grandparents. If the child’s parents object to custody or visitation by the grandparents, however, then the grandparents will have to pursue custody through other means.
Grandparent Visitation Rights
There is an important distinction between access rights and custody rights. Under certain circumstances, Texas grandparents can petition the court for access to their grandchildren, essentially asking for visitation or grandparenting time. Typically, courts will defer to the power of the parents to decide who interacts with their children and will not grant visitation over their objection. A Texas court can authorize grandparent visitation, however, even over the objection of one or both parents, under the following circumstances:
- The parents are divorced;
- The parent has abused or neglected the child;
- The parent has been declared legally incompetent, has died, or has become incarcerated;
- A court order has terminated the parent-child relationship for some reason; OR
- The child has already lived with the grandparents for at least six months.
The court will only allow grandparent visitation if it finds that visitation would be in the best interests of the children. Typically, if the parents object, the grandparents must show that withholding visitation would be harmful to the child.
Assuming the parents do not agree to power of attorney and allow the grandparents to decide where the child should live, Texas grandparents can petition the court for a managing conservatorship over the child. The grandparents would be granted rights to decide where the child lives and would have the right to make important decisions concerning the child’s upbringing; essentially, parental rights.
A grandparent can petition for managing conservatorship (a) when all surviving parents and/or guardians agree to let the grandparents take over; or (b) where the grandparents can demonstrate the child’s current circumstances with the parents present a serious risk to the child’s emotional or physical health (typically, due to neglect or child abuse). Additionally, any party, including a grandparent, can petition for managing conservatorship if they have had “actual care, control, and custody” of the child for at least six months.
Grandparents may also file to intervene in a child custody case started by another party in order to seek their own custody rights.
If you’re dealing with family law issues including child custody, alimony, property division, child support, or any other family law matter in Texas, get professional help protecting your rights by contacting the seasoned and qualified Houston family law attorney Maria Lowry at 713-850-8859.