The custody rights of grandparents in Texas

Whether its taking care of their grandchildren while their parents are away or merely “spoiling” them (much to their parents’ dismay) Grandparents play an invaluable role in a child’s life. However, the relationship between grandparent and grandchild can be cut short by the divorce or separation of the parents. In some circumstances, many grandparents that believe that their grandchildren are not being adequately taken care of wish to obtain custody rights.

Unfortunately, under Texas law, grandparents have no automatic right to custody of their grandchildren. However, the law provides grandparents the ability to seek custody of their grandchildren in certain situations.

Seeking custody

The easiest way for grandparents to be awarded custody is for the child’s parent to sign a power of attorney giving the grandparents the right to decide where the child lives and to make important decisions for the child. Aside from the difficulties of getting parents to consent to the power of attorney, a downside to this approach is that it is temporary, as the parents can change their mind and revoke the agreement at any time.

If the parents do not consent to the power of attorney, grandparents have the right to seek managing conservatorship by filing a lawsuit and going to court. Under this arrangement, the child would live with his or her grandparents. In addition, the grandparents would have the right to make important decisions concerning his or her life (e.g. education, religious instruction).

Under Texas statutes, grandparents have a right to sue for managing conservatorship in a two situations. The first situation is when there is proof that the child’s present circumstances with his or her parents would significantly impair his or her emotional or physical health (e.g. abuse, neglect or other harm).

The other situation which gives grandparents the right to seek managing conservatorship is when both parents, the surviving parent or the child’s custodian agree that it would be best for the child to live with his or her grandparents.

In addition to managing conservatorship, grandparents also have the right to intervene in a child custody case started by someone else in order to seek possessory conservatorship. This allows the grandparents the right to make important decisions about the child’s life and grants them visitation rights. Under the law, grandparents may intervene only if they have had a substantial amount of contact with the child in the past and there is proof that the child’s living conditions would significantly harm their emotional or physical health.

An attorney can help

Once the grandparent has filed the lawsuit or intervened for conservatorship, the court will then decide the custody arrangements based on what is in the child’s best interests. This standard is complicated and includes consideration of many factors including the child’s wishes, needs, and his or her relationship with the parents.

As the process is complicated, it is important to consult an experienced family law attorney if you are seeking the custody of your grandchild. An attorney can advise you on your situation and work to maximize the probability of success in your case.