Some of the most highly litigated divorce issues in the state of Texas revolve around the rights of non-biological parents, such as grandparents, siblings and unmarried partners. Many Grandparents have graciously been taking care of their grandchild for many years, when an absent parent steps in and attempts to cut them out of access to the child. Understandably, they want to know what their grandparents rights are.
The law in Texas is different depending on whether the applicant is seeking grandparents rights to obtain managing conservatorship of the child or is interested in visitation and access. Current law limits standing to sue for grandparents rights. Recently the Supreme Court of the United States in Troxel v. Granville has spoken on grandparents rights to sue in the context of Constitutional liberties.
With the rise in the number of divorces, it is not uncommon for a grandparent to be shut out of their grandchildren’s lives. If you are a grandparent or a sibling who wants to know whether you have rights in this context it is important to contact an experienced family lawyer right away. Timing is crucial.
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF YOUR RIGHTS
There are various situations where grandparents may seek relief from the courts:
- Visitation rights: When the parents of a child object to a grandparent seeing the child, the grandparent must show that visitation would be in the best interests of the child and prove at least one additional factor. This factor could be parental divorce, parent death, an incarcerated parent, parent’s rights have been discontinued, parent abuse, history of child living with grandparent for six months. However, none of the factors mentioned above will hold true in court if someone other than a stepparent has already adopted the child.
- Child Custody: If a grandparent has had care and control of the grandchild for at least six months and the child has been living with her, the grandparent may base a claim of conservatorship on the best interests of the child. When the child has not been living with the grandparent, he must allege and prove extreme harm might come to child if the child continues to live with the parents.
- Child Support: If the grandparent has legal custody or can show that he or she is indeed supervising the child, he or she may ask for child support, Medicaid and other child support services from the state. However, the grandparent must assist the state in locating the biological parent to sue for reimbursement. The grandparents, with or without the aid of the Attorney General, may sue the biological parents directly for support.
At Chernoff Law we strongly believe in the value of grandparent-grandchild relationships and are ready to fight for grandparents who want what is in the best interests of the grandchild. If this is your situation, please give us a call.
Situations do arise where the grandparents have been helping to take care of a grandchild, and as a result of a close relationship with the child may have lost sight of the true nature of their relationship. It may be that the parents are divorced or separated, and one parent relies almost completely on his/her parents to take care of the child during the period of his/her possession. It is natural for a grandparent to believe herself to be the parent. When the other parent steps in, the grandparent may not want to cooperate and attempt legal action by litigating his grandparents rights and asking to be named managing conservator of the child.
It is vital that any parent who seeks to prevent the loss of his parental privileges, not take lightly an action by a grandparent. if the grandparent can show that he has had 6 months care, control and custody of the child, the court only needs to consider the “best interest of the child” in making a conservator decision.
We have represented grandparents who wanted sole conservatorship of a child, and we have represented parents who sought to fight loss of conservatorship. It was always a battle and we have been extremely successful. The key is that the client act early and take decisive action. A parent who believes that a grandparent is contemplating such an action, can do much in the courts to gain possession of the child before the action is filed. A grandparent can prevent this action in the court by quickly filing an action with a temporary restraining order and request for temporary orders. If you are in this situation, call Chernoff Law right away and speak with Ed Chernoff. He will be able to tell you what steps you need to take to protect your rights. We are ready to help!