Becoming a grandparent can be one of life’s greatest joys, and being an active grandparent has numerous benefits for your health and well-being. But if you’re a grandparent, you might wonder what legal rights you have to be a part of your grandchild’s life.
Texas Legal attorney Jaclyn Y. Roberson gets many calls from grandparents wondering about their legal rights to see or have custody of their grandchildren.
“Texas law does allow for limited access based on being a grandparents,” says Roberson, although she says those rights depend on the circumstances in each individual case.
Your Right to See Your Grandchild
Texas does provide a legal right for grandparents to see their grandchildren in certain situations, says Roberson, but most of the time, it involves a previously established relationship with a child or a particular circumstance with the parent, for example, if they are incarcerated or deceased.
“Often, there is a situation where their daughter has a child and their daughter is no longer speaking to them. She’s moved out of town, and they want to see their grandchild, but their daughter is not allowing them access,” says Roberson. “Law really is kind of clear that if they didn’t already have possession of the child or if the parent is not incarcerated or deceased, they don’t have too much to go on.”
There are situations where a court can enforce a grandparents right to visitation, including the following, according to the Texas Attorney General:
- 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 or
- The child has lived with the grandparent for at least six months
If you think your grandchild is being abused or is in dangerous situation, Roberson says you as a grandparent have a legal duty to report it to Texas Child Protective Services.
“You have the mandatory responsibility to report if you have reason to believe your grandchild is being abused or is in danger,” says Roberson.
Establishing Custody of a Grandparent
Roberson says she sees a lot of cases where a grandparent or another member of a child’s extended family, like their aunt or uncle, are trying to establish custody so they can help a child that they’re already taking care of – like putting them in school or taking them to the doctor. This can be difficult if a parent is not in the picture, and the family member can’t locate them.
“A lot of time it’s because mom or dad has drug issues, or maybe they’re incarcerated. The parent might be transient,” says Roberson. “You need to have a pretty good idea of where to find the mom or the dad. Even last known address is helpful. You need something more than a phone number.”
Talk to an attorney to see if you have standing to apply for custody or to be the child’s guardian. Then an attorney files paperwork and gets into court to establish you as a conservator. Once you have those rights established, says Roberson, you can enroll the child in school, get medical insurance and take them to the doctor.
When a Parent Cuts Off Access
Although the court does allow some rights for grandparents to have visitation, Roberson says the parent has the superior right, including the right to decide who does and does not have access to their child. Rather than pursuing the issue through the court, Roberson often recommends trying to improve the relationship with the grandchild’s parent, which often involves giving the situation time.
“One thing is to really assess why you are being cut off,” says Roberson. “Maybe you don’t share the same religious beliefs that their parents do, and the parent feels you are trying to indoctrinate them with your own religious beliefs. If you know that you’re somewhat at fault for that, take steps to correct that.”
Establishing Your Rights as a Grandparent
If you’re wondering what rights you might have as a grandparent, you can use your Texas Legal plan’s attorney consultations to sit down with a qualified family law attorney near you and see what your options are. Our plans cover some family law issues such as custody, guardianship and adoption, and our attorneys can help you decide what to do and offer valuable legal advice to help you have the best possible relationship with your grandchild. Use our Online Attorney Finder to locate a family law attorney near you.