Grandparents take on a variety of different roles with grandchildren. They can be involved in the day-to-day care of the children, or even be a primary care giver. They are often a friendly face seen at holidays and birthdays.
The issue of grandparent visitation can get complicated after a divorce, particularly ones that involve a high level of conflict. Unfortunately, grandparents have no legal right to see their grandchildren unless they have already had actual custody orders. The general presumption is that parents determine who the children have contact with. However, grandparents may try to secure a court order to allow access to and/or possession of grandchildren then, if neither parent of the children will allow the children to have access to the grandparents.
Getting a hearing
Getting a court order is not easy, and getting a court date is the first legal hurdle. Courts typically hear visitation cases if a parent is:
- Found mentally incompetent by the court
- Not currently living with the children
The court will generally not hear a petition if the parents are deceased and the children were put up for adoption, or if the parents put the children up for adoption.
The best interests of the children are the priority
The courts can order visitation if it believes it is in the best interests of the children and one of the following conditions are met:
- The children's parents are divorced
- The parent has been found incompetent or is dead
- The children lived with the grandparents for at least six months
- The court has cut the legal rights of one of the parents
- The parent abuse or neglect the children
Visitation is not custody
It is also commonplace for grandparents to adopt or gain custody of grandchildren. Visitation is a separate issue than custody, but still serves the important function of enabling grandparents to maintain or regain a relationship with their grandchildren. The Texas Family Code places significant restrictions on the ability of grandparents to file a lawsuit or to intervene in a pending lawsuit. An experienced Board-Certified Texas Family Law Expert can be extremely helpful to grandparents wishing to gain visitation access, or even custody, in addressing and overseeing these restrictions.