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Census shows more children being raised by grandparents

More and more kids are being raised by their grandparents in recent years, according to the latest Census data. A report released by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that the number of children under the age of 18 living with grandparents has increased by nearly half a million since the year 2000.

As of 2010, there were 4.9 million children living with their grandparents in the United States, which translates to 7 percent of all U.S. kids age 17 and under, or about one in 14.

While many of these children live in three-generation households with both parents and grandparents, about 20 percent do not have either parent present in the household. This means that grandparents are the primary caretakers and providers for nearly one million kids in the U.S.

While the bond between children and their grandparents can be extremely close, their relationships can be highly complicated from a legal point of view, particularly where child custody issues are concerned.

Grandparents' rights in Texas

Parents generally have a fundamental legal right to be involved in their children's lives and make important decisions affecting their welfare, but the same rights do not automatically apply to grandparents in Texas. This means that grandparents' rights with regard to their grandchildren are generally limited, even if they are the children's primary source of care and support.

However, while grandparents in Texas do not have an automatic legal right to be involved in their grandchildren's lives, there are steps that grandparents can take to establish their legal rights to child custody or visitation.

Grandparent custody

Child custody can mean a variety of different things depending on the circumstances, but it typically refers to the right of an adult to spend time with a child and be involved in important decisions about the child's upbringing and care. Grandparents who obtain custody of a grandchild also have a right to seek child support payments from the child's parents.

Unless the child's parents voluntarily transfer custody to the grandparents by signing a power of attorney, it is usually necessary to go to court in order to get custody of a grandchild in Texas. If it is determined to be in the child's best interests, Texas family court judges may award custody to a grandparent under any of the following circumstances:

  • The grandchild has lived with the grandparent for at least six months.
  • The grandparent has been named the child's legal guardian by a court.
  • The child is being harmed by his or her current guardians or living conditions.
  • The child's parents or legal guardians agree that the child should live with the grandparent.

Grandparent visitation rights

In some cases, rather than seeking full custody, Texas grandparents may ask a court to grant them visitation rights with their grandchildren. This typically occurs when a grandparent wishes to spend time with the child but the child's parent does not cooperate.

Texas family court judges may grant visitation rights to grandparents under any of the following circumstances, if he or she finds that it would be in the child's best interests:

  • The child's parents are divorced.
  • The child has been abused or neglected by the parents.
  • The child's parent is in prison, has been ruled incompetent or is deceased.
  • The parent-child relationship has been terminated by court order.
  • The grandparent has lived with the child for six months or more.

Texas grandparents with concerns about child custody and visitation issues should contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance.