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How much do you know about grandparents' rights?

As a grandparent, you may be somewhat confused as to what your rights actually are when it comes to securing visitation rights with your grandchildren.

On the one hand, you may have heard that you have an absolute legal right to spend time with your grandkids, while on the other hand, you may have heard that your visitation rights with grandkids are virtually non-existent.

As it turns out, both of these suppositions are largely incorrect, with the truth about grandparents' rights and visitation found somewhere in the middle.

What does the law actually say about visitation and grandparents' rights?

In the landmark case Troxel v. Granville, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution "protects the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody and control of their children."

What this essentially means is that grandparents do not have a constitutional right to visitation -- or "access" -- with their grandchildren.

Does this mean I have no options if I want to see my grandchild but their parent won't allow it?

No, state law holds that a grandparent can file a lawsuit under Chapter 156 of the Texas Family Code seeking to secure visitation rights with their grandchildren. However, at least one of the following circumstances must exist:

  • The grandchild's parents divorced.
  • The grandchild has been abused or neglected by the parent.
  • The grandchild's parent has been incarcerated for at least three months prior to the filing of the lawsuit.
  • The parental rights of the grandchild's parent were terminated by court order.
  • The grandchild's parent died.
  • The grandchild's parent was found incompetent.
  • The grandchild has resided with the grandparent for a minimum of six months.

We'll continue to explore this important topic in our next post, outlining the other elements a grandparent petitioning for visitation must prove and the circumstances in which a grandparent is excluded from seeking visitation altogether.

In the meantime, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about grandparents' rights as they relate to visitation or custody.

Source: Attorney General of Texas Greg Abbott, "Grandparents' page," Accessed Dec. 2, 2014; Texas Law Help, "Grandparents' rights," Accessed Dec. 2, 2014 

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