Under the laws of Texas, parents have the right to decide virtually any issue regarding the care and custody of their children. Included within this right is the right to control the access that other family members have to their children. Unfortunately, this also includes the grandparents of the children.
As a result of this right, grandparents do not have an absolute right to custody of their grandchildren. However, situations can arise where the grandparents may want to seek custody of their grandchildren, such as when the grandchildren are growing up in an unsafe or unhealthy environment (e.g. child abuse, domestic violence, or parental substance abuse or mental illness).
Fortunately, grandparent rights in Texas include the right to seek custody of their grandchildren in certain circumstances. The easiest way to accomplish this is if the parents consent to giving the grandparents custody. Under Texas law, the parents do this by executing a power of attorney giving the grandparents the right to have physical custody of the children and to make important decisions for them regarding their upbringing. Unfortunately, this is not always the best arrangement, as the parents may rescind powers of attorney at any time.
Grandparents that are unable to obtain the consent of the parents (or that want a more permanent custody arrangement) must go to court to sue for managing conservatorship of the grandchildren. If granted, managing conservatorship gives the grandparents custody rights as well as the right to make important decisions concerning the child’s upbringing. Under Texas law, the court may grant managing conservatorship to the grandparents in two situations:
- If there is proof that the child’s current relationship with his or her parents would harm his or her emotional or physical health; or
- The child’s parents (or guardian) agree to grant managing conservatorship to the grandparents.
In addition to seeking managing conservatorship of their grandchildren, grandparents that have had significant contact with their grandchildren in the past can intervene in a child custody case that was started by someone else to seek possessory conservatorship. This gives grandparents visitation rights, but not the right to have the grandchildren live with them. However, possessory conservatorship may only be sought if the grandparents can prove that the children’s relationship with their parents would damage their physical or emotional health.
Speak with an attorney
If you are concerned about the health and safety of your grandchildren and would like to pursue custody of them, it is important to have the advice of an experienced family law attorney before proceeding. An attorney can advise you on the unique factors in your case and work to obtain the best possible outcome.