Grandparents play an important role in their grandchild’s growth and education. They provide a link to a child’s family and cultural history that give children an important sense of identity.
But, disputes between family members can often push grandparents out of their grandchild’s life, and this alienation can jeopardize the relationship between grandparent and grandchild.
That’s why you may be interested to learn more about whether grandparents can sue for visitation in Texas. It’s a complicated family law issue centered on grandparents’ rights, and I’ll unpack some key information to help you make an informed decision about your legal options.
When Can Grandparents Sue for Visitation?
Grandparents must be aware that it is not worthwhile to sue for visitation over minor disagreements or scheduling problems. Texas gives parents a great deal of authority over their children. Grandparents will not likely have a basis to file a petition for visitation merely because the parents tell the grandparents the child is too busy to visit.
Instead, most grandparent visitation cases happen in these few contexts:
- The grandparent’s child died or was incarcerated, and the other parent will not allow the grandparents to visit their grandchild.
- The parents lost custody of the child, and the child’s new guardian will not allow the grandparents to access the grandchildren.
- The grandparents helped raise the child, and the child’s parents or current guardian have blocked visits with the grandchild.
With that said, Texas allows grandparents to sue for visitation under special circumstances on a case-by-case basis. In other words, grandparents do have some legal rights, and you can sue for visitation if clearly warranted. The question is whether a judge will dismiss your lawsuit as frivolous or advance your claim to hold a hearing on the merits of your case.
How Can Grandparents Sue for Visitation?
Under Texas family law, a grandparent can sue for visitation in either an original lawsuit or a lawsuit to modify an existing custody order. But, grandparents bear a high burden when filing these lawsuits.
The lawsuit must include an affidavit, which must include facts, not mere allegations. And the facts must show that the lack of access to the grandchild significantly impairs the child’s physical health or emotional well-being.
If the lawsuit lacks an affidavit or fails to include facts to support the grandparents’ claim, the court must dismiss the lawsuit. That’s why it’s critical to work with a family law attorney specializing in grandparents’ rights cases to help you present a very strong case based on facts and other compelling evidence.
Can Grandparents Sue for Visitation and Win?
Despite the burden of proof being strong for grandparents, it is possible to win court-ordered access to your grandchildren. In all matters bearing on a child’s custody or visitation, the court must consider what is in the best interest of the child, and this is one of the main deciding factors.
This test requires the judge to consider every way that the requested arrangement will affect the child, including factors such as:
- The child’s wishes (if the child is of a certain age to present their wishes to the judge).
- The child’s physical and emotional needs.
- Any emotional and physical risk to the child.
- The grandparents’ visitation plans.
- The stability of the grandparents’ home.
- The propriety of the grandparent and grandchild relationship.
Texas’ grandparent visitation statute explains what the grandparent must prove for a court to award reasonable visitation:
- At least one biological or adoptive parent of the child has not had that parent’s parental rights terminated.
- The denial of visitation with the grandchild will “significantly impair” the child’s physical health or emotional well-being.
- The grandparent’s child has been incarcerated, was found incompetent, has died, or lacks custody of the child.
You must prove all three of these elements for a judge to consider issuing visitation orders. And the judge will apply the “best interests” test in the second element. The judge will apply this fact-intensive test based on your relationship with the child and how granting or denying your petition will likely affect the child.
If you have an existing relationship with your grandchild, you have a better chance of having your petition granted. In particular, if you helped raise your grandchild or lived with your grandchild in the past, you have higher odds of meeting the second element.
Filing a Lawsuit for Grandparent Visitation
As you examine your options to win visitation with your grandchildren, you should carefully consider whether this is the path you want to take. Even if you meet all three elements of the Texas statute, the judge is not automatically required to approve an order for visitation with your grandchildren.
You need the support of a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney to amplify your case. Otherwise, filing a lawsuit for visitation could ultimately prove fruitless, and it may deepen the rift between you and your grandchild’s parent or guardian.
As a result, your family lawyer will provide you with more than legal advice. I will review your case, present options for accomplishing your goals without resorting to a lawsuit, and serve as a fierce legal advocate on your behalf if you decide to advance to a lawsuit.
If you pursue legal action, then I will help identify key facts in your grandparent-grandchild relationship that will increase your chances of succeeding in your lawsuit.
I believe that children should have healthy relationships with their grandparents. If you live in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, or Harris County, then get in touch with me to discuss your legal options.
Contact my offices at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to schedule a consultation. I’ll provide you with an over-the-phone answer to your questions, including can grandparents sue for visitation? Let’s get started today so that you can make a decision that best fits your family situation.