Many grandparents have strong, supportive relationships with their grandchildren. Their time together goes far beyond the occasional ice cream cone or holiday gathering, Grandparents often participate in a child’s daily life, caring for them after school, assisting with online learning, or shuttling them around to extracurricular activities.
There are also situations where the grandparents become de facto parents, caring for every aspect of the child’s welfare. When this becomes the status quo, grandparents might choose to make the situation legal and permanent by suing for custody.
An estimated 2.7 million grandparents are raising their grandchildren in the U.S. About 36% of grandparents have done so for 5 years or longer. More than 40% of these children are with a grandparent because of a parent’s substance abuse problems.
A Difficult, Not Impossible Custody Fight
Like most states, Texas has laws establishing a grandparent’s rights to visitation, but there are no specific laws related to child custody. Even the right to visitation is not a given, and a parent can choose to cut off a grandparent’s access to their child. Courts presume that parents know what is best for their children. To overcome this assumption, the grandparent must demonstrate in court that denying them visitation is harmful to the child.
Texas allows visitation (also called access) when:
- At least one biological or adoptive parent has parental rights
- The grandparent shows that a denial of grandparent visitation would harm the child's physical health or emotional well-being
- The grandparent seeking visitation is the parent of the child's parent, and the child's parent:
- has been incarcerated for at least three months,
- has been declared incompetent by a court,
- has died, or
- does not have actual or court-ordered visitation with the child.
A grandparent has no right to visitation with a grandchild if the child’s biological parents have had their parental rights terminated or if they relinquished their parental rights.
Grandparents seeking custody will find an even steeper uphill legal battle than visitation. A grandparent must make a compelling case to succeed in taking custody of a grandchild, particularly if one or both parents are still living. Grandparents must show that their age, health, and financial situation allow them to properly care for their grandchildren. A court then will weigh both the child’s best interests and the rights of the parents to control their children’s upbringing.
Custody is considered more favorably by the courts when one of the following is true:
- The child's parents are deceased
- The child's parents have been deemed unfit to retain custody
- The child's parents consent to grandparent custody
- The grandparents show they have had care, custody, and control of the child for at least six months.
A grandparent's rights over a grandchild are always secondary to a parent's rights. However, a child's best interests will determine if an award of custody to a grandparent is appropriate. Although a parent's rights to a child are significant, a parent's own actions can result in the termination of those rights.
Compassionate, Honest Advice for Grandparents
Custody disputes between parents and grandparents are complex, both personally and legally. You can depend upon our experienced lawyers at The Springer Law Firm to be strong advocates for grandparents’ rights. We will provide you with a candid examination of your case and tell you exactly what we believe are your best options to move forward.
If taking legal action is the best course of action, we will compile and present the evidence the court needs in hopes of granting your visitation or custody request.
If you are worried about your grandchildren and are considering fighting for custody, contact us today using our online form or by calling (281) 990-6025.