Can Grandparents Be Awarded Visitation in Texas?
For many people, becoming a grandparent is one of the happiest moments of their lifetime. A grandchild often comes with the best of both worlds. You get to spend quality time bonding with your grandchild – but then send him/her back home at the end of the day. Unfortunately, however, for some grandparents the opportunity to spend time with a grandchild is denied. If your ability to spend time with your grandchild has been cut off, or denied from the beginning, you may be wondering if you have any legal rights to visitation. To help answer that, Fort Worth family lawyer Jon Boyd explains grandparent rights in Texas.
The Parental Presumption
In the United States, individual states have the right to pass their own laws; however, those laws may not violate the U.S. Constitution. The issue of grandparent rights found its way to the highest court in the land in Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000) in which the U.S. Supreme Court addressed a Washington state statute that permitted any person to petition for visitation at any time. The court found the statute to be “breathtakingly broad” and held that it interfered with a parent’s right to raise their child and inappropriately put the burden on the parent to disprove visitation.
child and should be permitted to deny grandparent visitation if the parent deems that to be appropriate. In other words, the law begins with the assumption that a parent knows best. If a grandparent has been denied visitation with a grandchild, the grandparent now has the burden of getting past that assumption.
When Might a Grandparent Be Awarded Visitation?
Although the decision in Troxel made it more difficult for non-parents (including grandparents) to pursue visitation rights with a minor child, it is not impossible. According to the Texas Attorney General, a grandparent may be entitled to petition for visitation if any of the following apply:
The parents divorced
The parent abused or neglected the child
The parent has been incarcerated, found incompetent, or died
A court-order terminated the parent-child relationship
The child has lived with the grandparent for at least six months
What Will a Court Consider when Deciding Grandparent Visitation?
All decisions involving a minor child must be made using the “best interest of the child” standard.” In Texas, however, a grandparent must prove more than that awarding visitation would be in the best interest of the child. Texas Family Code §153.432 governs petitions for grandparent visitation. That statute requires a grandparent who is petitioning for visitation to submit an affidavit establishing with facts that the denial of the grandparent’s visitation would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional wellbeing. It is not enough to allege that visitation with a grandchild would be beneficial for the child. Instead, a grandparent must allege – and ultimately prove – that failing to grant visitation would harm the child. Texas courts have interpreted this as a high threshold that must be met by a grandparent before a court can consider awarding the grandparent visitation rights to the child.
What Can I Do if I Cannot See My Grandchild?
For a grandparent who has been denied visitation, the thought of never seeing a grandchild again (or even for the first time) can be devastating. While it is possible to pursue visitation through the courts, the burden is on the grandparent to prove harm to the child. Before considering legal action, take some time to objectively assess the situation. Ask yourself why you have been denied visitation. If the underlying reason is a family rift, or a difference of opinion on childrearing, consider trying to mend fences with the parent(s) before moving forward with legal action. On the other hand, if the reason is not something you can work on fixing, it may be time to consider your legal options.
Contact a Fort Worth Family Lawyer
If you are a grandparent who has been denied visitation with your grandchild, contact an experienced Fort Worth family lawyer at Boyd Family Law to discuss your legal rights and options and to schedule your appointment today.