Our Houston Family Law Lawyers will go to courtroom battle for Houston grandparents seeking visitation with, or custody of, grandchildren.
Texas law significantly restricts the rights of grandparents when a fit parent wishes to exclude a grandparent from the life of a child. There are limited circumstances, however, when a grandparent has the standing to seek custody of a child. The status of grandparents’ rights is precarious in quite a few states. Under the present laws, when a couple’s adult daughter passes away, those grandparents might be turned down for visitation with their grandchild because of the kids’ father.
Even when they had what most people would consider a classic grandparent-grandchild relationship and, let’s suppose, visited their grandchild every Sunday afternoon. However in the view of some states, unless grandparents have performed as de facto parents, meaning they lived with their grandchildren or took proper care of them as the parents were at the job, they are treated no differently than strangers.
Houston Grandparents Rights Attorneys
Families fall apart for any number of causes: divorce, the passing away of a parent, substance abuse, time in jail. Grandparents in Houston and all over the U.S. may have legal rights and might get visitation with grandchildren, yet those rights change from state to state. Knowing your fundamental constitutional rights will help make sure that your relationship with the grandkids isn’t going to end should that with their parents. Of course, every case involves a particular set of facts and grandparents who find themselves suddenly cut-off from grandchildren have to talk to an attorney to go over the sequence of steps their precise situations require.
Texas Grandparent Custody Laws
The most common situation in which a grandparent may seek custody of a child in Texas is when a child has been living with a grandparent. If you have had actual care, control and possession of your grandchild for at least six months or longer, you may have grounds to seek custody. We also have experience in cases in which a parent has passed away and cases involving a lack of parental fitness.
We can also pursue a fixed possession and access schedule (visitation rights) on behalf of grandparents in certain circumstances. Speak with one of our family law attorneys to learn more about your legal rights and options.
When Grandparents’ Rights Changed
In June 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 6-3 decision on grandparents’ visitation rights in the Troxel v. Granville case. This canceled out a Washington State law that authorized judges to give visitation rights to any interested party as long as the visits were in the best interest of the child, even though the parents objected.
The Troxel v. Granville decision was unclear since while most of the justices agreed that Troxel really should be decided a particular way, each had different grounds for doing so which ended in 6 written opinions.
This makes it very difficult for state courts to interpret the decision. In spite of this and the narrow set of facts in which the case dealt, Troxel v. Granville has turned out to be the grounds for all following discussion of grandparents’ rights.
Parent Vs. Grandparent: Whose Call Is It?
The case dates back to 1993 when Brad Troxel committed suicide in Washington State. Brad abandoned two daughters and their mother, Tommie Granville, whom he had never married. Brad and Tommie were estranged at the time of his death, but Brad’s parents, Gary and Jenifer, kept on seeing their grandkids after the suicide. After Tommie remarried and her new husband adopted the daughters she’d had with Brad, Tommie restricted the grandparents’ visits.
The Troxels wished for more time with their grandkids and decided to go to court for this, citing Washington State’s third-party visitation law, which said they had the legal right to visit so long as it was in the best interest of the kids. The trial judge agreed.
The Supreme Court, however, did not and found the Washington State law to be “breathtakingly broad,” arguing that it infringed upon parental legal rights. It struck down the Washington Supreme Court’s decision, which has granted the Troxel grandparents constitutional rights to more visitation.
Though groups like AARP filed court papers in support of grandparents’ legal rights, the parents’ rights groups praised the Supreme Court decision in favor of Tommie Granville a victory. Organizations such as the Coalition for the Restoration of Parental Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union applauded the decision which gave “fit” parents the final say regarding how to raise their children; this includes whether or not grandparents could see them.
Laws Vary State by State
At the most basic level, all states need grandparents to establish that the visits they request are in the best interest of the grandchild. This generally means that grandparents have to present that their holidays won’t be undesirable in any way and that they are not abusive or otherwise dangerous to the child. More than this first challenge, every state has a different threshold for when it’ll permit grandparents to take a case to court.
Some states are more permissive on the subject of filing for visitation. Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland and also New York require only the ground rule above mentioned, that visitation is in the best interest of the child before grandparents might take a case to court.
Other states set tighter requirements, permitting grandparents to file a suit only when they were denied visitation rights completely. Under current laws in Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, Oregon, Rhode Island as well as Utah, grandparents don’t have a case if parents allow them to see their grandkids, no matter how seldom.
In Minnesota and Pennsylvania, grandparents are unable to make a legal case except if their grandchildren formerly lived with them. Outside the U.S., grandparents may very well be shocked to find out how limited grandparents’ rights are in the U.K.
Burden of Proof
The most restrictive states, such as Florida, Minnesota and also Pennsylvania, demand evidence that grandparents have got a parent-child connection with their grandchild, which means they already have often stood in for the kid’s parents.
Depending on the state, these kinds of requirements can be severe. Grandparents may need to show they took proper care of the child full-time while parents were away for extended periods or that they participated in regular parental duties, for instance, making the child doctor sessions or even attending PTA meetings.
The legislation is beginning to change reacting to Troxel, on a state by state basis. The Ohio Supreme Court released a 2005 decision determining that Troxel does not affect Ohio’s laws and regulations on visitation rights. In Harrold v. Collier, Ohio’s court differed from Troxel once it decided that grandparents may well visit the children of their deceased daughter, contrary to the wishes of the children’s father.
In contrast, new cases in the Texas Supreme Court have maintained the state’s grandparents’ visitation laws in line with Troxel. In 2005, the Texas state legislature changed its old laws on grandparents’ rights, stiffening the conditions by permitting grandparents access over a parent’s objection only when denial of access would “significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional well-being.”
Unless there is uniform guidance on a national level, says Kent, state laws will continue to change in ways that most likely damage grandparents’ rights.
Who’s Guarding the Houston Grandparents Rights?
On a national level, Senators Hillary Clinton (D) of New York and Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine announced a bipartisan bill in March 2007 that could assist grandparents and other relatives taking over primary caretaker obligations for children. The Kinship Caregiver Support Act does not address custody or visitation issues precisely but does offer assistance for the more than 6 million children in the United States living in homes headed by grandparents or any other relatives by expanding access to federal assistance programs for schooling, medical treatment, and legal services.
The actual bill, supported by AARP and grandparents, lobbying groups such as Generations United and Grandparents for Children’s Rights, remains in the first stages of the legislative process and can even have several changes before heading to a vote in the full Congress.
On a grassroots level, there is expanding support for grandparents facing visitation or custodial problems with their grandchildren. AARP provides some informational resources on a national level, as does the Grandparents Rights Organization, a Michigan-based nonprofit organization. Furthermore, local groups just like California-based Grandparents as Parents, existing support programs to give a warm hand to grandparents dealing with the task of seeking visitation rights and custodial rights within their state.