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Austin TX Family Law Blog

Monday, November 28, 2016

Texas Couple Brings Fight for Grandparent’s Rights to State Capitol

What are my rights as a grandparent to care for my grandchild?

A San Antonio couple is pushing to change Texas’ laws on grandparents’ rights following the death of their two-year-old great-granddaughter.  Raymond and Linda Bryant lost their great granddaughter K’Lanie Reyes in August of this year.  Officials report that she died due to blunt force trauma while with a caregiver.  

Raymond and Linda Bryant were given temporary custody of their great-granddaughter for nine months in 2015.  She was ultimately returned to the care of her parents.  Child protective services were continuing to monitor the young girl.  Raymond and Linda Bryant alerted CPS to a large knot on the child’s head during a visit, but no action was taken.  Months later, the little girl was dead.

Grandparents’ Rights in Texas

The Bryants are seeking to pass a K’Lanie Law that would strengthen the rights of grandparents in the state of Texas. Grandparents’ rights in Texas are quite limited.  Certain situations exist in which grandparents can seek custody or visitation of their grandchildren, but they are limited.  Texas has adopted the stance that in most cases, a child belongs with his or her parents.  If the parents of a child elect not to allow the grandparents to have visitation or contact with the child, this wish will be respected unless the grandparents can meet very stringent legal standards.

Standing for Grandparents to File Suit

There are limited situations that will provide a grandparent with standing to seek visitation or custody of the grandchild, including:

  • General standing:  The Texas Family Code allows a suit for custody to be filed by any person who had actual care, possession, or control of the child for at least six months leading up to filing the petition.  Accordingly, where the grandparent has essentially raised the grandchild, the grandparent may have general standing to seek custody.
  • Significant impairment:  If a grandparent can establish that the child’s present living situation is damaging to the child’s physical or emotional health, they can be granted standing to seek custody.  This grounds for standing involves essentially showing that the parents are unfit.
  • Visitation:  To seek visitation of a grandchild, the grandparent must prove that denial of access to the child would have a significant negative impact on the child’s health or emotional wellbeing, among other factors.  

Any grandparent with questions or concerns about their right to seek custody or visitation of their grandchild should consult with a Texas grandparents’ rights attorney as soon as possible.


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