You love your child. But your child's life is in chaos and single parenthood has certainly not helped the situation. Frankly, you're concerned for the safety of your grandchildren. They've always adored you, but is there any way that you can be the lone star of stability in the midst of their unstable lives? Read on to learn more about grandparents' rights to visitation in the Lone Star State.
As a general starting point, it should be noted that the United States Supreme Court has ruled that grandparents do not have a Constitutional right to see or visit grandchildren. This is based on the general presumption that since parents have an automatic right to determine the best interests of their children, they are entitled to decide who does or does not have contact with their children.
In Texas, visitation generally refers to "access" (continuing contact) or "possession" (visiting) of a child. As long as a parent approves, grandparents can usually visit their grandchildren at any time. However, problems sometimes arise when parents restrict grandparents' visitation or contact with the grandchildren. Since Texas law does not legally entitle them to see their grandchildren, some grandparents may choose to try and get a court order allowing visitation.
Getting a Court Order: Challenges for Grandparents
Grandparents must overcome many hurdles in order to get access or visitation to grandchildren over parents' objections. The first of these hurdles is simply getting into court. Typically, courts will only hear grandparent visitation cases if a parent is:
- Found mentally incompetent by a court;
- Deceased; or
- Not currently living with the child.
Also note that if the child has been adopted after both parents either died or put the child up for adoption, grandparents are not allowed to file a visitation petition.
Once the grandparents have gotten into court, the court may order visitation if it would be in the child's best interests, AND one of the following conditions exist:
- The child's parents are divorced;
- The parents abused or neglected the child;
- A parent has been incarcerated, found incompetent, or died;
- A court terminated the relationship between the child and one of the parents; or
- The child has lived with the grandparent for at least six months.
Additional Resources and Information
Remember that the requirements listed above refer only to grandparent visitation -- custody requirements are different. You can find more general information on the issues of visitation and custody by visiting FindLaw's section on grandparent rights. Finally, if you find that you have more specific questions or need additional assistance, consider looking for a family law attorney with experience handling grandparents' rights.