Recently on our divorce forum a user asked, “My son is divorcing his wife. I have a strained relationship with her. Unfortunately, she has been given primary custody of the children. I have to admit my son has not been a very good father, but regardless, I am a good grandmother and I love my grandkids. Most importantly, I want to continue to be involved in their lives after the divorce. I live in the State of Texas. Will I have any rights after the divorce to see my grandchildren?”
Traditionally, the courts have ruled that the biological parents should have the primary responsibility for control, care, and custody of their own children. This arrangement worked well until the utter breakdown of the nuclear family in the 1960s, including the rise in divorce rates, single parents, and the number of grandparents and extended family members who have been called upon to help rear children.
Many now contend grandparents should have more rights to see their grandchildren, especially since an estimated six million of them currently report living with them and over two million of them are responsible for their care.
What rights do a grandmother have to visit after divorce?
Whether or not you will visitation rights will depend on your state’s laws and the statutes they have enacted. Although, every state has enacted a grandparent visitation statute within the past decade, not all the statutes have withstood scrutiny.
In fact, statutes which were enacted in Washington State were struck down by the United States Supreme Court in 2000 with the court arguing that the statute was too broad and “it unconstitutionally infringed upon a parent’s right to care for and control their children.”
After the Supreme Court ruling other state supreme courts, including those in Hawaii, Washington, and Florida, also struck down similar statutes which had been passed by their state legislatures. After these spate of rulings, grandparents in these states have found it more difficult to fight for their visitation rights.
What does this mean for you?
A grandparent’s right to visitation varies greatly from state to state. Not only is the legislation different, the court’s interpretation of the statutes also widely varies. The best course of action for any grandparent seeking visitation is to contact a lawyer who is familiar with their state’s laws and find out they can help you fight for visitation.
Now, you mentioned you live in the State of Texas. The State of Texas recognizes that grandparents can play a critical role in the care and nurturing of a grandchild. With this in mind, a court can authorize grandparent visitation if they believe it is in the best interest of the child and any of the following is true:
- The parents divorced;
- The parent abused or neglected the child;
- The parent has been incarcerated, found incompetent, or died;
- A court-order terminated the parent-child relationship; or
- The child has lived with the grandparent for at least six months.
(Information provided by the office of the Attorney General of Texas)
Texas laws do allow for visitation of grandparents under very specific circumstances. If you have questions about your rights in Texas and need a lawyer you can contact the Texas State Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service at (800) 252-9690.
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