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What rights do grandparents have after parents divorce?

When a couple ends their marriage with one another, perhaps their feelings and their children's wellbeing is their focus at that emotional time, so family members such as grandparents might end up in the dark. Many grandparents in Texas have strong and healthy bonds with their grandchildren, and after a divorce, they are suddenly left with few options with regard to visiting their grandchildren or having their grandchildren visit them, especially if the divorce was a messy one. In some limited circumstances, grandparents may wish to take custody of the children. But, what exactly are the rights of grandparents in child custody cases? There is no straightforward answer to this question.

Unfortunately, the law has not completely evolved as yet to take their special relationship into account, but that is not to say that strides are not being taken in the right direction. Just as courts consider the best interests of children when it comes to a custody decision in a divorce, courts use the same test to determine custody and visitation rights of grandparents.

The standards vary from state to state, but most states consider a number of factors that contribute to the best interests of the child when it comes to grandparent's rights. In Texas, grandparents may be able to sue for custody if it is the best interests of the child. They may also be given visitation rights by the court if various situations such as divorce or neglect are involved, though such rights are not absolute. In addition to the needs of the child, both emotionally and physically, the court looks at the grandparent's ability to fulfill those needs and the strength and length of the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. The ability of the grandparent to provide love and affection to children, and if the children are old enough, their wishes are also taken into consideration. The factors are be similar to those for parental custody rights, but it might be more difficult to demonstrate these when it comes to grandparent's rights.

Before going to the court to petition for visitation rights, grandparents and parents may want to consider options outside of court, such as mediation. It is always in everyone's best interests, especially when there are children involved, to resolve matters peacefully. However, when this is not an option or when there are other factors such as abuse or neglect involved, grandparents may want to work quickly in order to obtain custody of their grandchildren. An experienced family law attorney may be able to guide them through the process.

Source: Huffington Post, "Divorce confidential: Do grandparents have rights in divorce?" Caroline Choi, Sept. 9, 2014

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