Visitation rights, in general, refer to the basic set of rights that can be granted to noncustodial parents in child custody and divorce proceedings. When a court is determining whether to grant the noncustodial parent visitation rights, it applies the child’s best interest standard.
When applying this standard, a court will consider several factors, including:
- The overall well-being and age of the child;
- Depending on a child’s age, the preference of which parent they would prefer to live with;
- Where each parent lives, along with each parent’s:
- work history;
- salary; and
- employment status;
- A parent’s daily social and work schedules; and
- The mental health or physical well-being of each of a child’s parents.
The laws that govern child visitation rights often vary by jurisdiction. In many cases, the parents can come to an agreement together.
That agreement will then be submitted to the court for approval. Once a court approves a visitation schedule, it will issue an order stating that the parents are required to abide by or seek a modification if they have to make changes.
When it comes to the rights of grandparents to visit or spend time with their grandchildren, they may have some rights. At the very least, grandparents may have a means of legal recourse to obtain visitation rights.
It is important to note, however, that the rights grandparents may obtain over their grandchild are not as extensive as those that a parent has over the child. It may be that certain states afford greater rights to grandparents based on:
- The jurisdiction;
- Different regulations; and
- Whether or not the grandparent is considered the child’s legal guardian.
Because of these issues, it is very important for a grandparent to have the assistance of an attorney who can advise them of the applicable laws in the state where they reside before they take any legal action. Although the majority of states provide certain limited rights for grandparents who are seeking visitation with their grandchildren, these rights may vary widely by state.
What Are Grandparents Rights in Texas?
Most courts believe that it is in the grandchild’s best interests to maintain contact with and develop a relationship with grandparents who are able to provide them with a safe and healthy familial home environment. In situations where the grandchild’s parents have separated, have filed for divorce, or one or both have passed away, grandparents may still seek to obtain visitation rights.
In some states, the laws provide that grandparents do not possess a natural right to visit their grandchildren because they are not actual parents. Because of this, a parent or other legal guardian may have to be present during the visits with the grandchild, even after the grandparent has received a court order that grants them visitation rights.
In the State of Texas, grandparents do not have an automatic right of visitation over the objections of the parents of the child. Texas permits that parents can raise their children as they wish, so long as it is in the best interests of the child.
Texas grandparents rights provide that visitation rights may be granted, however, if certain conditions are met. In addition, child custody laws in Texas for grandparents provide that grandparents may seek a conservatorship over a grandchild when they have exercised care, control, and possession of their grandchild for at least 6 months before filing the petition.
What is the Three-Part Test?
There is not a surefire way for grandparents to guarantee that they can secure visitation rights to see their grandchildren. In the majority of states, the grandparent must convince a family law judge that it would be in their grandchild’s best interests to have visitation.
Once the grandparent establishes this, the family law judge may be willing to issue an order that allows the grandparent to spend time with their grandchild. The three part test used in Texas to determine visitation rights of grandparents, including:
- The parental rights of at least one of the child’s parents must have been terminated;
- It must be in the best interest of the grandchild to have visitation with the grandparents; and
- At least one of the following requirements must be fulfilled:
- The grandchild’s parent is:
- deemed incompetent as a parent; or
- The parents of the grandchild are divorced or they have been living separately for at least 3 months;
- The grandchild has been abused or neglected by one of their parents;
- According to a Texas court, the grandchild is in need of supervision;
- The child of the grandparent, or the parent of the grandchild, is the one whose parental rights have been terminated; or
- The child has lived with the grandparent for a time of at least 6 months during the past 2 years.
How Do I File for Grandparents Rights in Texas?
When a grandparent wishes to have visitation with their grandchild, they can petition the court for visitation. The grandparent can petition the appropriate family court.
The appropriate court is typically the court where the last custody order was issued or where the parent’s divorce action is pending. When a court determines whether to grant a grandparent’s petition for grandchild visitation rights, it uses the same standard that applies in parental visitation cases, the child’s best interest standard.
Courts will consider the following factors when applying the child’s best interest standard:
- How far away the grandparent lives from the parents’ residence;
- Whether the grandchild’s parents have refused to allow their child to spend time with or visit with their grandparents;
- Whether the grandchild desires to visit or spend time with their grandparents;
- How attached the grandchild is to their grandparents;
- The current type of relationship that a grandparent has with their grandchildren, for example, are they close, never met them, etc.; and
- The background and lifestyle of the particular grandparent, including whether they abuse alcohol or drugs.
If a child’s parents have a good reason to prevent the grandparent from visiting with their grandchild, the court will likely deny the grandparent’s petition for visitation rights. In these types of cases, the parents of the child will have to submit proof to the court that visitation with the grandparent will put the child in danger or cause them harm.
The grandparent may then submit their own evidence to dispute the parent’s claim. If the grandparents cannot provide evidence otherwise, the court will presume that the decision by the parents to deny grandparent visitation was in the best interest of the child.
The grandparent may also attempt to contact the parents of their grandchild to determine whether they might be willing to work out any misunderstandings or disagreements without an attorney or court intervention. In some cases, attending a formal mediation session or seeking the help of a family counselor may also be beneficial to heal any family conflicts.
It is important to note that, when using either of these options, a neutral third party will need to be present. The one exception is if the parties enter into their own informal negotiations.
In many family law cases, it is best if the parties avoid the courtroom, as this may add more stress to already existing family issues as well as put strain on familial relationships. If a grandparent is required to appear in court to obtain visitation rights, it is best for them to have the assistance of an attorney who can help them navigate the process and resolve it as efficiently as is possible.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me Obtain Grandparent Visitation Rights in Texas?
Grandparent intervention in Texas can be a complicated process. It requires you, as grandparents, to prove certain conditions exist.
Having a Texas child visitation lawyer on your side is your best chance at obtaining visitation rights with the grandchildren that are so important to you. Your lawyer will help you navigate the legal system and speak on your behalf in court.