Grandparent Rights

Grandparents play an important role in their grandchildren’s life, and can develop strong bonds that last a lifetime. However there are no automatic grandparents’ rights in Texas. Unless they go to court, grandparents have no rights to visit the grandchildren. This does not mean they cannot see the grandchildren. It means they must have the approval of one of the parents. Under some circumstances, grandparents can obtain a court order to visit grandchildren over the objection of the parents. The attorneys at Kevin J. Schmid and Associates stay up to date on the evolution of case law in this volatile area of family law.

Today, every state, including Texas, has some type of grandparent visitation law. In Texas, a court can authorize grandparent visitation of a grandchild if the denial of visitation would be detrimental to the child, and one of the following circumstances exists:

  • The parents divorced;
  • The parent abused or neglected the child;
  • The parent has been incarcerated, found incompetent, or died;
  • A court-order terminated one of the parent-child relationships; or
  • The child has lived with the grandparent for at least six months

Visitation statutes do not give a grandparent an absolute right to visitation. Also, a grandparent may not request visitation if the grandchild has been adopted by someone other than the child’s step-parent.

A grandparent who seeks appointment as a managing conservator may acquire standing in one of two ways. First, a grandparent may rely on the general rule for standing in suits affecting the parent-child relationship.  The provisions of this statute pertinent to grandparents state: An original suit may be filed at any time by:

  • a person, other than a foster parent, who has had actual care, control, and possession  of the child for at least six months ending not more than 90 days preceding the date of the  filing of the petition;
  • a person with whom the child and the child’s guardian, managing conservator, or
  • parent have resided for at least six months ending not more than 90 days preceding the date of the filing of the petition if the child’s guardian, managing conservator, or parent is  deceased at the time of the filing of the petition;

The Texas Family Code also contains a special grandparent standing provision that allows a grandparent to seek managing conservatorship of a grandchild:  In addition to the general standing to file suit provided by Section 102.003, a  grandparent may file an original suit requesting managing conservatorship if there is satisfactory proof to the court that:

  • the order requested is necessary because the child’s present circumstances would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development; or
  •  both parents, the surviving parent, or the managing conservator or custodian either filed the petition or consented to the suit.

A grandparent may seek possessory conservatorship over a grandchild under the general standing statute, Tex. Fam. Code § 102.003, just as the grandparent may seek managing conservatorship under that statute. However, the grandparent standing statute, Tex. Fam. Code § 102.004, permits grandparents to seek possessory conservatorship only by intervention, not by original suit: An original suit requesting possessory conservatorship may not be filed by a grandparent or other person. However, the court may grant a grandparent or other person deemed by the court to have had substantial past contact with the child leave to intervene in a pending suit filed by a person authorized to do so under if there is satisfactory proof to the court that appointment of a parent as a sole managing conservator or both parents as joint managing conservators would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development.