Child custody proceedings are complicated and the process for obtaining custody is not straightforward. Child custody disputes most commonly arise during divorce but may also come up during other types of family estrangements, pitting mothers against fathers and, sometimes, parents against in-laws.
In 2010, a young Austin mother disappeared, leaving behind a 2-year-old daughter, a husband and a doting mother. Within a few months, the detectives investigating her disappearance determined that her husband was a "person of interest" in the case. The missing woman's mother sought, and was granted, unsupervised visitation rights with her granddaughter and she continues to fight for sole custody, worried that the little girl's father may be a danger to his daughter.
In 2011, a central Texas man was convicted of killing his wife. His deceased wife's parents fought for and won custody of the teenage daughters who were living with the man's parents, claiming the paternal grandparents were "brainwashing" the girls against their mother's family. The bitter battle pitted one set of grandparents against another and ultimately removed any parental rights the father had to his children.
Texas laws provide visitation rights to grandparents when one of the child's parents is deceased, deemed incompetent, is in jail or has had his or her parental rights removed. If the custodial parent objects, the grandparents have to sue for those rights.
A grandparent can also bring an action for custody of a grandchild but must prove that the health or wellbeing of the child is in jeopardy and that the custodial parent is a danger to the child. In conservatorship cases, the grandparents must show that the grandchild's physical health or mental development is significantly impaired in his or her current situation.
Each dispute is different and each process has a litany of legal requirements beyond those listed here. In all situations, the best interests of the child prevail, sometimes even going against the express wishes of the child herself, as was the decision with the 2011 case.
Seeking custody or visitation as a grandparent is a complicated process best navigated with the assistance of a lawyer knowledgeable in family law matters. If you are seeking visitation or custody rights with your grandchild or face having those rights stripped from you, contact an experienced attorney and find out what your options are in Texas.