As a grandparent, looking out for the best interests of your grandchild or grandchildren is not always easy, especially when the traditional family structure falls apart. If your family has suboptimal circumstances that you believe negatively impact your grandchildren, there are steps you can take. While your legal rights may be diminished when compared to biological parents, you are not completely without options.
What are my rights?
The first step to providing a stable environment is to understand your rights. In Roxel v. Granvill, the Supreme Court ruled that grandparents do not have a constitutional right to visit their grandchildren. This means that your visitation or custody rights are not federally protected. Instead, laws about visitation vary by state. In Texas, there are laws in place that create a clear avenue to file for visitation rights or custody of grandchildren.
How can I exercise my visitation rights?
If the child's biological parents are denying you visitation, then you will likely have to pursue legal action. You can file under Chapter 156 of the Texas Family Code if one or more of the following conditions exist:
- The child is not receiving proper care or is abused.
- The parent has served jail time at least 3 months before filing.
- The parent has been ruled incompetent by a court.
- The parent is deceased.
- The child has lived with the grandparent for six months or more.
Additionally, a grandparent cannot pursue visitation rights if the child is up for adoption, has been adopted or both biological parents no longer have parental rights.
What about custody?
There are two ways for a grandparent to obtain custody of their grandchildren. Either the parents have to sign a power of attorney granting custody, or a court has to grant it through a lawsuit. In these cases, you can pursue a conservatorship if the child has already lived with you for six months and has not moved out within 90 days of filing or you can prove that the child is being hurt by his or her living conditions. Without these conditions, you can still petition the court to appoint you as the child's guardian, but the appointment is no longer automatic and will depend on your case.
If at any point you believe a child or children are in immediate danger, call 911. If you are worried about your grandchildren and have been denied visitation from one or both of their parents you may have legal options. Consult with Attorney Daniel R. Bacalis to discuss your situation and begin building your case. You love your grandchildren and have a right to ensure their wellbeing. Don't delay in providing them the love and support that you know you can provide.