Divorce is always a time of stress and worry, but usually grandparents merely play a supporting role, perhaps provide testimonials to support their respective child’s claims when necessary. But when grandparents believe that their grandchildren suffer under the custody of unfit parents, they take on a more active role.
Grandparents’ rights refer to custody of a grandchild in lieu of one of the biological parents. Typically, grandparents can ask and receive visitation rights in Texas if any of the conditions apply:
- Parents are divorced
- Custodial parent is abusive or neglectful
- Custodial parent is dead, in prison or found incompetent
- The parent-child relationship has been legally terminated by a court
- The grandchild has been in the custody of the grandparent for a minimum of 6 months
It is not at all easy to prove that a parent is unfit or that it is in the best interest of the child to be in the custody of his or her grandparents. This is especially true, according to the legal website Holmes, Diggs & Eames, PLLC, when the custodial parent is resistant. It has to be proven in court that the child’s physical and emotional health is being impaired significantly by being under the continued supervision of the custodial parent.
In Texas, grandparents may sue for custody of a grandchild only if at least one biological or step- parent is alive and has parental rights to the child. Grandparents’ rights are superseded by the rights of an adoptive parent if he or she is a person other than a step-parent, and grandparents may not sue for access or custody to the child.
Once grandparents’ rights have been established, grandparents take on the role of conservators. Financial support may be claimed from both parents for medical and living expenses as this is their legal responsibility.
If you believe that your grandchild is being abused, neglected, or otherwise not being reared in a reasonably healthy environment, then you can assert your rights as a grandparent. Contact a grandparents’ rights attorney to get the wheels started on your petition before more damage to the child is done.
Child custody is perhaps one of the most sensitive issues that come up when parents separate, whether they are married or not. According to the website of Holmes, Diggs, Eames & Sadler, when a child custody case is not handled correctly, it can very quickly become acrimonious, something which is not in the best interest of any child.
Under the Texas Family Code, biological parents have equal rights to obtain conservatorship (custody) or visitation rights to a child. However, when the biological relationship between a father and child is brought into question in a custodial dispute, establishing paternity of the child becomes of paramount importance.
Under Chapter 160 of the Texas Family Code (Uniform Parentage Act), the paternity of a child may be established in three ways:
- Presumption of Paternity
- Acknowledgment of Paternity
- DNA Testing
Perhaps naively, Texas law states that when a couple has a child while they are married, the husband is the presumed father. If this is not actually the case, the biological father cannot sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) unless the husband first agrees to sign a Denial of Paternity. If the husband refuses, the biological father can bring the case before the Texas Attorney General which will then establish paternity.
Unless there is a existing dispute, the state recommends that both parents, married or not sign an AOP at the time of birth in establishing paternity. The father’s name is then inscribed on the birth certificate. Until that is done, the father has no legal standing with regards to the child, and this includes all responsibilities, rights and benefits including child custody. All Texas hospitals have the necessary forms available, and signing the AOP then saves time and money, rather than accomplishing it later which would incur a fee.
DNA testing only becomes necessary when there is no AOP because one parent refused to sign it and establishing paternity becomes necessary, such as during a child custody case. If the father fails in establishing paternity, he will not have the right to request for legal or physical conservatorship, visitation rights, or any confidential information about the child such as medical records.
If you are having problems with child custody in Texas, contact a child custody lawyer in your area to get help in establishing paternity. You will not be able to gain access to your child unless you do so.