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Grandparents' rights to custody and visitation

Grandparents and grandchildren can grow lasting relationships, and Texas law gives custody and visitation rights to grandparents in special situations. If it is in the best interests of a child, the court may grant a grandparent custody or visitation privileges if the grandparent requests it or the birth parents agree to it.

In custody cases, grandparents have to go to court to obtain custody of their grandchildren unless the parents sign a power of attorney that gives the grandparents the authority to determine where the children live and to make life decisions regarding the children. Grandparents who file suits for custody must have had their grandchildren living with them for six months or have received court recognition as the children's guardians. They could also file suits if they have proof that the children's caregivers or living conditions are hazardous to their well-being.

Grandparents may also join suits to intervene with other people's requests for custody. These grandparents must have proof that the children's caregivers or living conditions are hurting their well-being and must have had plenty of prior contact with the children. When it comes to visitation, grandparents may request privileges from the court if the children's parents divorce, were abusive or neglectful, have passed away, are found incompetent or become imprisoned. Petitions for visitation may also arise if the court terminates the relationship between the parents and the children, or the children have lived with the grandparents for six months. However, grandparents are not permitted to seek visitation rights if non-stepparents adopt the children.

Obtaining custody of grandchildren gives the grandparents the most rights and allows them to apply for child support from the birth parents, who remain responsible for supporting their children. However, obtaining visitation rights is not absolute. Some circumstances make it difficult for grandparents to determine whether they need to seek parental custody, so they may wish to talk to family law attorneys about how to proceed.

Source: Attorney General of Texas, "Grandparents' Page", December 16, 2014

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