One of the joys of getting older is becoming a grandparent. You spoil your grandchildren. You play until you’re both worn out. The last thing you’d want is to lose that special bond between you and them.
What if their parents were no longer able to take care of them? What would happen to your relationship with your grandkids? Would you lose contact with them? What child custody rights do you have in Texas?
States generally vary in their considerations when determining if grandparents should get child custody. It’s important to consult an experienced attorney to improve your chances of having the court award you custody of your grandchildren.
A Grandparent Can Be Awarded Child Custody
In Texas, the easiest way for grandparents to be awarded child custody is when both parents or the surviving parent agree it would be best. The child’s parents would sign over power of attorney giving the grandparents all custodial rights. However, this method is not a permanent solution. The parents could change their minds and revoke the agreement at any time.
Another way that a grandparent could be given custody of grandchildren is if the child’s parents are physically or emotionally harming the child. The courts will then determine that having the parents retain custody is not in the best interests of the child.
Getting Grandparent Custody
If you’re trying to gain custody of a grandchild, you must understand one thing. In Texas, child custody is a complicated process. Possession of your grandchild will not automatically transfer to you just because you’re the grandparent. You will need to prove to a judge that you are a better option than the kid’s parents. However, courts in most states do not only consider parenting ability when determining custody to protect the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit.
There are only a few situations when you have the right to start the process of child custody or what’s called conservatorship in Texas family law.
- The parent has been incarcerated, found incompetent, or died.
- A court order terminated the parent-child relationship.
- The child has lived with you for at least six months.
- The parent abused or neglected the child.
A Grandparent Can Sue for Custody
Another way a grandparent can gain child custody in Texas is through a lawsuit. If your grandchild has been in your care for at least 6 months then you might consider this option. This usually happens because the parents are in prison, have abandoned the child, or died.
In a case of grandparent custody, the court will also consider factors such as the child’s relationship with other blood relatives, the health, age, and financial situation of the grandparents, and the relationship between the grandparents and the child.
If you were living with the custodial parent and your grandchildren already, you have a better chance of proving your close relationship with the child to the courts and that getting physical custody will be in the child’s best interest. If the children are old enough, they can express their wish to live with you. Your chances of getting grandparent custody will also increase if the custodial parent named you as the legal guardian of the children.
The Challenges Of Third Party Custody
You will also need a very strong case to get custody of your grandchild if the parents are still alive. Courts generally don’t grant third party custody often so parents retain the right to raise their child as they see fit.
You and your attorney will have to prove that both parents are not fit to take care of the child due to reasons such as child abuse or mental illness. Sometimes another third party such as other family members will also attempt to get legal or physical custody of the child. Grandparents seeking custody will have to prove why awarding custody to them is in the child’s best interest.
A court lawsuit is also a good option for grandparents if you know that your grandchild is being harmed or neglected. If this is the case, you should contact the authorities immediately. You will then have to show evidence of the abuse to file a lawsuit. The court will allow the case to proceed as long as there is merit to your case.
Grandparents may opt for possessory conservatorship. This enables you to have input on certain decisions relating to the children such as their moral and religious education and non-invasive medical decisions. However, full legal and physical custody will still belong to the mother or father.
If you are temporarily taking care of your children’s kids, you may need to get a power of attorney so that you get the right to make legal decisions on the child’s behalf. You may also need to make medical decisions that concern the child’s life if the parents cannot be reached.
Check with your attorney. Some states provide medical consent forms and educational consent forms that allow you to make decisions even without an actual power of attorney.
Grandparent Visitation Rights
Visitation rights can differ greatly from state to state. Typically, the court prefers to award child custody to one of the parents. Even if you don’t obtain custody, grandparents may still get visitation rights. This allows them to continue to be a part of the child’s life which can be in the child’s best interests. However, visitation is not an absolute right for a grandparent.
The easiest way is to negotiate with the custodial parent so you can visit the grandchildren. If the father or mother do not agree with your visitation rights, you may need to go to court to file a lawsuit. You can invoke visitation rights for grandparents in the state of Texas if you meet the following conditions:
- The father or mother has not terminated parental rights at the time of the court lawsuit
- You are the biological grandparent of the children
- Not having visitation would not be in the best interests of the children and could impair their physical or emotional well-being.
You will also need to meet similar requirements for visitation rights compared to if you were fighting for custody of your grandchildren. The child must have lived with you for at least six months, or there was parental abuse of the children. The parent may also have died, been incarcerated, or been found incompetent.
Grandparents As Foster Parents
Sometimes grandparents may have the chance to care for grandchildren who have been removed from their parents and placed into a foster care home. States will retain legal custody but grandparents get physical custody so the grandchild lives with them in their home.
However, grandparents will need to think carefully before deciding if they want to become official foster parents. They will need to provide financial support to raise a child. This may not be feasible for some grandparents who are unable to support an additional family member.
There are many complicated factors involved in third party custody cases, so make sure to meet with a family law attorney who knows the law.
Let the award-winning Family Law experts at Sean Lynch help you prepare your case. We have decades of experience in family law. Contact us today for a no-cost review. Let us help you secure your rights to your grandchild and get custody.