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Grandparents’ Rights in a Texas Divorce: A Primer

Recently, the Supreme Court sharply limited grandparent visitation rights, mostly based on the “Father Knows Best” presumption in Texas and all other states. Most parents have the exclusive right to determine what their children do and what they do it with.

So, to obtain legal visitation rights for grandparents, a Fort Worth family law attorney must overcome this presumption and prove that visitation is in the best interests of the child. That’s an uphill climb in all states but a slightly easier hike in the Lone Star State.

After a divorce, logistical concerns and, more likely, emotional concerns throw up roadblocks to grandparents’ access to grandchildren.

Move-away modifications are very common in divorce actions, mostly because people relocate so frequently. Grandparents have no say in these matters. In fact, they aren’t even entitled to notice, at least in most cases. Frequently, they only find out about the change after grandchild visitation ceases.

Logistical concerts could also be informal. For example, if Billy’s grandparents regularly picked him up after soccer practice and he leaves that team, for whatever reason, his grandparents are cut off emotionally.

Pure emotional concerns are much more common than logistical concerns, especially after a contentious divorce. Keep in mind that a divorce can be contentious even if the parties settle it out of court.

In these cases, most wives want clean breaks from their husbands, and most husbands want the same thing. Continuing contact with in-laws is almost like picking at the scab of an emotional wound and preventing it from healing.

We mentioned that the grandparent access hill is easier for a Fort Worth family law attorney to climb. But it’s definitely not easy.

Basically, as an initial matter, the grandparents must prove the child’s parent is maliciously, or at least recklessly, withholding visitation. Second, the grandparents must prove that “denial of possession of or access to the child would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional well-being.” Finally, their child (the petitioner or respondent in the divorce) must be:

Successful grandparent’s rights petitioners in Texas are usually entitled to one weekend of visitation per month, or the equivalent thereof.

How Grandparents Obtain Visitation Rights

“Best interest” and “significant impairment” are Legalese phrases that mean very little to most people. Usually, this issue turns on whether the grandparents were babysitters or caregivers.

Let’s go back to Billy and expand the facts a little. If the grandparents picked up Billy, zoomed through a McDonald’s drive-thru, and let him watch TV by himself until his mom picked him up, the grandparents were babysitters. Even if they meet the aforementioned legal qualifications, their chances of obtaining visitation are slim to none.

However, if they took Billy to Cici’s, helped him with his homework, tended to any minor soccer-related injuries, and otherwise spent quality time with Billy, the grandparents were caregivers who should be part of Billy’s life unless his mom had a very good reason to deny contact.

“Turning over a new leaf” cases (grandparents who were babysitters but now want to be caregivers) are occasionally successful as well.

Count on a Tarrant County Criminal Defense Attorney

Pretrial motions lay the ground rules for trials. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Fort Worth, contact the Law Office of Kyle Whittaker. Virtual, home, and after-hours visits are available.