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Grandparents' Visitation Rights

What are the grandparent visitation laws in Texas?

Divorce has many ramifications for families. The divorcing spouses must work through all the usual issues involving child custody and support, spousal support and the division of property. While child custody is usually handled jointly, there are other important people in a child's life who may have visitation rights, such as the grandparents.

In many families, bonds between children and grandparents are strong and can last a lifetime. In recognition of this fact, every state now has some type of grandparent visitation law. In Texas, a court can authorize visitation rights for grandparent, provided that such visitation is in the best interest of the child. Texas is viewed as a restrictive state in this regard, because the grandparent must overcome the presumption that a parent's barring visitation is in the best interest of the child.

This requires the grandparent to prove that denying visitation would significantly impair the child's physical health or emotional well being. This is also known as the harm standard and it is a higher burden of proof than in other states. The Texas standard, however, adheres to federal requirements established by the United States Supreme Court. In short, the Court has ruled that, as long as a parent adequately cares for his or her children, there is no basis for the government to impose in private family matters.

In addition to meeting this standard, one of the following conditions must exist in order for the court to authorize visitation:

• The parents divorced
• The parent abused or neglected the child
• The parent has been incarcerated, found incompetent, or died
• A court-order terminated the parent-child relationship
• The child has lived with the grandparent for at least 6 months

In the final analysis, the visitation laws in Texas do not give grandparents an absolute right. As with many child visitation issues, the courts will make decisions based on a determination of what is in the best interest of a child. There are also other issues that can affect a grandparent's visitation rights, such as adoption. On the other hand, in situations where a child lives with a grandparent, he or she may decide to seek custody of the child.

As with any other matter involving divorce, child custody and visitation rights, these are complicated legal issues. If you are a grandparent seeking visitation rights, you should consult with a qualified family law attorney.